Air Quality Study Poised To Begin In Seacoast N.H.
Hundreds of Scientists Will Participate, Research Platforms Will
Contact: David Sims
Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space
June 28, 2004
DURHAM, N.H. -- They will come by land, sea, and air to probe the
skies and take measure of the air we breathe. And the University
of New Hampshire will be at the center of it all – the largest
and most complex air quality-climate study ever attempted.
Satellites will fly overhead scanning the Earth’s atmosphere,
research aircraft will make tight spirals down a 40,000-foot column
of air and “sniff” for hundreds of chemical species.
Planes will fly wingtip-to-wingtip gathering air samples and comparing
measurements to gauge instrument accuracy. Small, high-tech balloons
that adjust their height to stay inside a polluted air mass will
be launched in hopes of crossing the Atlantic Ocean to see what
the United States exports to Europe.
The initiative kicks off when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
(NOAA) 274-foot Research Vessel Ronald H. Brown steams into Portsmouth Harbor
at the end of June to load the scientific instruments designed for the six-week
field experiment. Known as the International Consortium for Atmospheric Research
on Transport and Transformation or ICARTT, the study will involve five countries,
universities and government agencies, and hundreds of scientists, including researchers,
technicians, and students from UNH, which will be the host institution.
In addition to the R/V Brown, scientific platforms will include 12 research aircraft,
among them NASA’s DC-8 Airborne Science Lab and the NOAA P-3, three Earth-orbiting
satellites – Aqua, Terra, and Envisat, “Smart Balloons,” and
ground-based platforms, most prominently UNH’s four AIRMAP (Atmospheric
Investigation, Regional Modeling, Analysis and Prediction) observatories strategically
located atop Mt. Washington, in Durham and Moultonborough, and on Appledore Island.
The permanent, ground-based AIRMAP atmospheric observatories – some of
the most sophisticated in the world – will sample the air day and night
for 180 chemicals critical to the region’s air quality. The UNH observatories
will serve as the foundation for the study by providing a continuous, long-term
record to put into context the snapshots of air quality gathered by the mobile
platforms from July 1 to August 15.
The combination of all these measurements will give us an unprecedented amount
of data to better understand regional air quality and help launch the forecasting
that NOAA plans for later this year,” says Robert Talbot, who directs both
AIRMAP and UNH’s Climate Change Research Center within the Institute for
the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space (EOS).
The three focus areas of the research are regional air quality, intercontinental
transport of polluted air masses, and the effects of pollutants on atmospheric
cooling and warming. The goal of ICARTT is to enhance the ability to predict
and monitor air quality changes, and provide the scientific knowledge needed
to make informed decisions. A
large contingent of comp uter modelers and meteorologists will
be based at the Pease International Tradeport (as will many of
the aircraft) at the ICARTT science “command center,” which
will be housed at the New Hampshire Community Technical College.
For the science flights that will occur every other day, the
modelers and forecasters will predict where planes should be
deployed to sample plumes of polluted air. After samples are
gathered and measurements are made, the models will be adjusted
to improve their forecasting capabilities.
NOAA is mandated to have air quality forecasts up and running soon.
Trial forecasts will begin in New England this fall.
An added component of the field campaign, which will be led by
UNH researchers and broadens the science to include human health
effects, is a study entitled the Integrated Human Health and Air
Quality Assessment (INHALE) that directly measures and correlates
health effects (e.g., asthma) with changes in air quality. In addition,
an economic analysis of the relationship between air quality and
emergency room visits, health care system usage, and worker absenteeism
and productivity will be conducted.