NOAA Scientists, Students to Study Gulf Coast Meteorology

June 11, 2009

Monitoring Station.

Monitoring Station.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

This month as beachgoers and coastal residents enjoy gentle sea breezes, a group of NOAA scientists and students from Jackson State University will take a deeper look at what happens when the wind blows.

“Sea breezes can be refreshing, but they can also tell us a lot about how the wind moves and what’s moving along with it,” said Will Pendergrass, a NOAA physical scientist and project manager. “During this field study, we’ll concentrate on how sea breezes develop and evolve, as well as what they carry as they move on to land.”

Scientists from NOAA’s Air Resources Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn., will team up with 15 students from the Jackson State University Trent Lott Geospatial Visualization and Research Center in Jackson, Miss., for a two-week field study beginning June 15 in Mississippi.

Air samples will be taken from six monitoring stations – two already installed at Harrison County schools for a previous study and four new stations to be installed inland of Gulfport, Miss., along US-49. The instruments will measure ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitric acid, and particulate matter, or soot. Other instruments, such as a Doppler sodar, will measure the boundary winds and temperature. Sodar measures sound waves similar to radar, which measures radio waves.

Scientists and students will also explore how the air mixes as the breezes move inland – useful data if pollutants are intentionally or accidentally released into the air. Under such a circumstance, NOAA is responsible for providing accurate and timely dispersion forecasts to protect the public.

Work this summer will contribute to the three-year-old collaborative effort between the university and ARL to develop a forecasting system tailored for use in the Gulf region. With a large percentage of the population living at or near the coastline, this study will further enhance NOAA’s knowledge of Gulf Coast meteorology.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.