MAJOR AIR POLLUTION STUDY BEGINS
The Southern Oxidants Study (SOS) is a cooperative effort among universities and federal, state, and local government environmental and regulatory agencies to investigate air pollution from mid-June to mid-July. Operating out of Nashville, Tenn., scientists will investigate the processes responsible for the formation of ozone pollution and fine particulate matter (PM) that may be a factor in many health-related problems, as well as crop and forest damage. This research will provide critical background information to policy makers who are developing solutions to deal more effectively with these problems. "Although the nation has made considerable progress in managing air pollution during the past thirty years," says North Carolina State University's Dr. Ellis Cowling, "some of our most challenging problems still remain."
Using planes, helicopters and
air monitoring stations located throughout the South, scientists
will collect air samples to assess the physical and chemical
characteristics of fine particulate matter and ozone. "The
combined activities of this study provide an unparalleled opportunity
to describe the production and distribution of ozone and PM throughout
the Southeast with a level of detail that has hitherto not been
possible," says James Meagher, of NOAA's
Aeronomy Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. Chief scientist for
the project, Meagher says that the improved insights and new
scientific findings that are expected will translate directly
into better management strategies for these two pollutants.
During 1997, the Environmental Protection Agency introduced three regulatory plans to address the most serious air quality problems in the nation. These include a new National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone, new standards for particulate matter, and proposals for new regional haze regulations to protect and improve visibility in the national parks and wilderness areas of the country. These actions are expected to result in a significant increase in the number of areas regarded as "nonattainment" for ozone. However, the new regulations are presently under intense scrutiny and judicial review. This heightens the need for ozone and PM management strategies to be based on sound science, which is the goal for both NOAA's Health of the Atmosphere research and SOS.
During the study, aircraft including NOAA's WP-3D Orion hurricane hunter (serving as flagship), the Tennessee Valley Authority's Bell helicopter, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Gulfstream-1 (G-1), and a DeHavilland Caribou will be taking a series of coordinated chemical and meteorological measurements. As air pollution is a problem that doesn't go away when the sun sets, investigators from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will use the G-1 aircraft to make measurements of ozone and aerosols at night, and intercomparisons will be made with the daytime flights of the other aircraft. The planes will be used to collect air samples over a wide area of the Southeast and Midwestern United States to assess to what degree ozone or fine particulate pollution is a regional or a local problem. The researchers will also use ground-based meteorological and air quality monitoring stations throughout Nashville and Middle Tennessee.
During the study, the NOAA
P-3which has been reconfigured by NOAA's
Aircraft Operations Center in Tampa, Fla., from a hurricane
research platform to a flying air chemistry laboratorywill
make a limited number of flights to study ozone and PM formation
in the region around Atlanta, Ga. Atlanta is a much larger city
than Nashville, with proportionally greater air pollution emissions.
A major contributor to Atlanta's ozone problem is automobile
exhaust, which plays a significant role in particulate matter
production. NOAA's P-3 aircraft will gather data, during extensive
low-altitude flight patterns (about 1500 feet above the ground)
over the major population and air traffic centers of Nashville
and Atlanta, that permits scientists to assess the similarities
and differences in the air quality of these two southern cities
and allow policy-makers to determine the appropriate response
to air quality management.
For more information concerning SOS, check the Aeronomy Lab web site at: www.al.noaa.gov