NOAA 2004-027
Contact: John Leslie

NOAA News Releases 2004
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A group of scientists and graduate students from the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Center for Atmospheric Sciences (NCAS), which includes Howard University in Washington, D.C., and additional scientists from Spain, are aboard the NOAA ship Ronald H. Brown, tracing the impact of dust from the Saharan Desert as it heads west across the Atlantic Ocean.

The trans-Atlantic research cruise - called AEROSE 2004, or AERosol Ocean Science Expedition - began on February 29, leaving Bridgetown, Barbados, and will wrap up March 26 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. A key goal of the cruise, organizers said, is gathering measurements to better understand the effects the traveling Saharan dust aerosols have on the atmosphere and Atlantic Ocean.

“Water, climate, weather and other key issues know no geographic boundaries,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “This cruise is one example of the continuing efforts by NOAA and its partners to advance understanding of natural activities and how they interrelate on this planet we share.”

Lautenbacher noted that the U.S. is pioneering an international effort to develop a global Earth Observation System, a network that will link the many thousands of individual technological assets already demonstrating their value by estimating crop yields, monitoring water and air quality, and improving land management in different parts of the globe.

Reducing scientific uncertainties related to the effects of aerosols within the climate system is a priority for the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP). Research efforts such as this trans-Atlantic cruise are a step towards understanding the complex relationship between aerosols and climate change.

“The trans-Atlantic movement of African dust could have a significant impact on climatic, bio-geochemical and meteorological phenomena in the tropical Atlantic,” said Pablo Clemente-Colon, chief scientist for the AEROSE expedition. “Transport of Saharan dust aerosols have been associated with higher incidence of respiratory problems in the United States and Caribbean. Also it may account for the presence of fungi in Caribbean and southern Florida corals and for the harmful algae blooms in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Clemente-Colon, who also is an oceanographer in the Office of Research and Applications at NOAA’s Satellites and Information Service Office, added: “We need to learn more about the why and the how to better understand the consequences of these impacts.”

He said the research cruise is following a route in the Atlantic that will give the scientists the best chance to track the dust and study its effects. Clemente-Colon said other research goals include investigating upwelling conditions off the northwest coast of Africa.

The NCAS is part of NOAA’s Educational Partnership Program with Minority Serving Institutions, led by Howard University, Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., the University of Texas at El Paso and the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez. A key focus of the NCAS is to increase the number of well-trained graduates in the fields of NOAA-related atmospheric and oceanic sciences for jobs with NOAA and other federal agencies.

Ronald H. Brown is under the command of CDR Timothy Wright, NOAA Corps. The NOAA Commissioned Corps, smallest of the nation’s seven uniformed services, is composed of officers with degrees in science, mathematics or engineering. They operate and manage the NOAA fleet of research and survey ships and aircraft as well as bring their operational expertise and leadership skills to NOAA programs on shore.

The AEROSE research cruise has a Web site that features a daily log of observations from the scientists:

NOAA’s Satellites and Information Service is the nation’s primary source of space-based meteorological and climate data. It operates the nation's environmental satellites, which are used for weather forecasting, climate monitoring and other environmental applications such as fire detection, ozone monitoring and sea surface temperature measurements.

The agency also operates three data centers, which house global databases in climatology, oceanography, solid earth geophysics, marine geology and geophysics, solar-terrestrial physics, and paleoclimatology.

NOAA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, 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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