Scientists Gather At UNH
To Discuss Initial Findings From Massive 2004 Air Quality Study
Contact: David Sims
Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space
Aug. 4, 2005
DURHAM, N.H. -- Last year at this time, seacoast New Hampshire was
the hub of an unprecedented atmospheric science field campaign involving
hundreds of scientists from around the world. Next week, at the
University of New Hampshire, preliminary data from the International
Consortium for Atmospheric Research on Transport and Transformation
(ICARTT) will be shared for the first time since the six-week-long
field experiment drew to a close in mid-August 2004.
"This was a really complex experiment, with so many people
and so much logistical integration that it took a year for people
to pull their data together," says UNH atmospheric chemist
Robert Talbot, director of AIRMAP -- a joint National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration/UNH program aimed at understanding climate
variability and the source of persistent air pollutants in New England. AIRMAP's four regional state-of-the-art atmospheric observatories
served as the foundation for the field experiment. U.S. Senator
Judd Gregg helped secure funding for the AIRMAP program and facilitated
NOAA's role in ICARTT.
Adds Talbot, "This campaign was the first time we've been
able to make a concerted effort, using airplanes, a ship, satellites,
and balloons, to better understand regional air quality, intercontinental
transport of polluted air masses, the role that nighttime chemistry
plays, and the effects of pollutants on atmospheric cooling and
warming. So, there should be some important information coming out
of this meeting."
For example, there will be insights into the possible role that
sea-borne compounds called halogens, like chlorine or iodine, play
in creating or destroying ground-based ozone levels.
When polluted continental air meets up with halogen-rich coastal
marine air, the chemistry gets complicated and is not well understood.
A better understanding is important if scientists are to calculate
the global ozone budget much like they are trying to ascertain the
world's carbon budget vis-à-vis climate change and global
Tropospheric ozone (as opposed to the stratospheric variety that
helps protect the Earth from ultraviolet radiation) is generally
considered to be a pollutant and can cause respiratory problems
and damage plants. At the same time, this ozone plays a dual role
in helping to cleanse the Earth's atmosphere, and so keeping a healthy
balance of the compound is important in the overall, global state
of our atmosphere.
At the workshop, ICARTT scientists will also for the first time
be able to compare notes on what was discovered about the effect
aerosols or particulate matter have on the cooling or warming of
air masses. The "radiative" properties of these particles
play a critical role in regional and hemispheric temperatures. Additional
insights, based on what was observed last summer, will be provided
into how well current forecast models are able to simulate the chemistry
and transport of pollutants.
Talbot notes also that, like the university's prominent role in
ICARTT itself, UNH's hosting of this meeting is a feather in its
cap because scientific gatherings of this size and importance are
generally reserved for special sessions of the American Geophysical
Union meetings or the like. This will be the first meeting of some
of the finest minds in atmospheric chemistry well before next fall's
AGU meeting in San Francisco.
And, says Talbot, "Until you hear what everybody's found it's
really hard to develop any answers, until you can see how the whole
thing fits together it's hard to pull out the real simplified gems."
Editors: The ICARTT meeting will be held in the Granite State
Room of the Memorial Union Building on the Durham campus beginning
Tuesday, August 9, and running through Friday morning on August
12. Scientists will be available for reporter's questions Wednesday
and Thursday. There will be nearly 100 posters graphically displaying
the ICARTT data.