NOAA 2002-050
Contact: Barbara McGehan
NOAA News Releases 2002
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A team of international scientists, led by the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is measuring a variety of pollutants and chemicals as they blow across the Pacific to the West Coast of North America to gage and monitor impacts on American populations.

NOAA researchers are taking measurements from the ground and from aircraft to get a better idea of the effects on climate and air quality by measuring the air chemistry of pollution. According to NOAA scientists, pollution is not just a national or regional problem, but is international in scope and flows from continent to continent.

"We've designed a major international research program to investigate how the atmosphere changes and is moved from continent to continent around the globe. These processes have many ways of influencing Earth's climate," said Fred Fehsenfeld from NOAA's Aeronomy Laboratory in Boulder, Colo.

The month-long field study is the inaugural field campaign of Intercontinental Transport and Chemical Transformation program. ITCT is a coordinated research program aimed at discovering how the transport of chemicals from one continent influences the regional and global climate of other continents. While aerosol particles and other pollutants constantly stream around the globe, dust storms such as those recently observed in Asia can provide more visible evidence of the atmosphere's "connectedness."

"We're trying to get as clear a picture as we can of what the pollutants are and to determine the chemical transformation that occurs as they move from one continent to another," said David Parish of NOAA's Aeronomy Laboratory. "We'll be looking at the aerosol particles, ozone, and other pollutants coming ashore on the West Coast from Los Angeles to the Canadian border."

What comes ashore is affected not only by pollution from Asia, but also by recirculation from California and Mexico, Parrish said.

Scientists have increasing evidence that even short-lived substances such as ozone and fine particles, as well as their precursors, can be detected at great distances from their sources. The spring field mission and other research of the ITCT program will further the scientific understanding of the climate-related consequences of global transport of pollution.

As part of the field mission, NOAA will fly a heavily instrumented WP-3D research aircraft out of Monterey, Calif., until late May. The project began April 22. Scientists are measuring low-level ozone, airborne particles and dust, and other substances. Researchers will also measure the fossil-fuel emissions from oceangoing vessels, and a number of other chemicals in the atmosphere.

NOAA's Environmental Technology Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., will deploy several wind-profiling radars along the coast from San Francisco to northern Washington to diagnose whether the wind measured is local air or has been transported from across the ocean. Scientists from NOAA's Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory and Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory will make ground measurements of surface ozone and other gases, aerosol particles, and solar radiation at a new monitoring site at Trinidad Head, Calif. Scientists from NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J., and the University of Iowa will run chemical transport models during the campaign to produce chemical forecasts to aid in flight planning. These models will also be used as part of the post-mission analysis.

Researchers from the University of Washington, Harvard, University of California at Berkeley, University of California at Davis, University of California at San Diego, Argonne National Laboratory, University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, Aerodyne, National Center for Atmospheric Research, NASA, Japan, Korea, and Germany are participating in the project. The research is part of the International Global Atmospheric Chemistry program of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources.

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NOTE: Media are welcome to tour NOAA's P-3 aircraft at the Monterey Airport during this experiment. Please contact Barbara McGehan (303) 497-6288 for more details.