The tower is a cable-supported steel structure taller than the Eiffel Tower.
Sampling arms protrude from the tower at six different heights; the air samples they gather are analyzed by equipment at the base every 15 minutes.
More than 30 devices on the tower continuously collect a variety of atmospheric data—from wind speed and direction to water vapor concentration to radiation levels.
Pipes in the tower carry air samples to several laboratories at the base. Because ATTO can collect those samples at multiple heights, researchers can use them to create “vertical profiles,” which show how much a particular substance or weather condition varies at different altitudes.
ATTO consists of not one but three towers—the tallest, still under construction, and two 260-foot towers that are already operating. While the tall tower will be able to gather data from a massive region, its shorter counterparts are better for monitoring subtler interactions between the forest and atmosphere.
Minimum length of time ATTO will operate. (Its creators hope it will run much longer.)
The Big Picture
It’s tricky to monitor CO2 activity over land because the physical and biological features absorbing and expelling that carbon—plants, wildlife, people, weather patterns—can differ dramatically even within a mile or half-mile. But ATTO’s height distances it from the particular patch of canopy it’s planted in, allowing it to grab data from a vast area.