NOAA 2001-R504
Contact: Jana Goldman


An international, interagency team of scientists will study aerosols - particles in the air – and their effect on climate during a 40-day experiment centered in the western Pacific beginning this month.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation are the major supporters of the ACE-Asia Project, which includes participants from nine nations.

"The Aerosol Characterization Experiments are designed to increase our understanding of how atmospheric aerosol particles affect the Earth's climate system. These experiments improve the ability of computer models to predict the influences of aerosols on the Earth's radiation balance," said David L. Evans, NOAA assistant administrator. "The scientists will be looking at two things: Trying to identify the chemical and physical properties of the aerosols, and trying to determine their climatic influence."

The ACE-Asia experiment will collect samples off the coasts of Japan and Korea, where there are many types of aerosol particles of widely varying composition and sizes derived from one of the largest aerosol source regions on Earth. These particles include those emitted by human activities and industrial sources, as well as wind-blown dust.

"Asian cities are large producers of material that gets caught up in major dust storms which lift vast amounts of aerosols high into the atmosphere," said Jarvis Moyers, director of the Atmospheric Sciences Division at the National Science Foundation. "The aerosols from these Asian sources are transported from the continent vast distances across the Pacific Ocean, sometimes often even reaching the West Coast of North America."

NOAA's research vessel Ronald H. Brown will be used, along with two aircraft, a
C-130 cargo plane owned by NSF and run by the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and a twin otter that belongs to the Naval Postgraduate School, to collect air samples.

A new airborne inlet was developed for this experiment that will collect large particles, such as mineral dust and sea salt, that were not efficiently sampled by previous collecting devices.

"ACE-Asia will be the first climate research campaign to use this inlet," said Joel Levy, program manager for aerosol climate science with NOAA's Office of Global Programs. "The new inlet will improve on the accuracy of our measurements because we will be able to collect large and small aerosols."

Accurately measuring the amount, composition, origin, and history of the aerosols will help increase understanding of their effect on climate, the scientists said.

"Particles out of Asia may warm certain atmospheric layers, change expected precipitation patterns, and cool the surface. Yet our ignorance of the composition and size of these aerosols has made it impossible to accurately predict their climatic effects," said Barry Huebert of the University of Hawaii and, along with Tim Bates, scientist from NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, Wash., ACE-Asia lead scientists. "These observations of Asian aerosols over wide spatial scales and at many altitudes will help all the participating nations make realistic predictions of these effects."

In addition to the scientists, there will also be a science teacher on board. Susan Carty, a middle school teacher from West Chester, Pa., will send back daily dispatches via the project Web site (see below). Carty is part of NOAA's Teacher at Sea program which offers berth space aboard NOAA research vessels for teachers, who send back lesson plans and other information. Carty's stint aboard the Brown is unusual because of its length – she is on sabbatical and may spend the entire 40 days at sea.

ACE-Asia is supported by scientific and research agencies from Australia, the People's Republic of China, Chinese Taipei, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom. U.S. support, in addition to NOAA and NSF, comes from the Office of Naval Research, NASA, the Department of Energy and the University of California Pacific Rim Program.

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