Press Release

CARB Sniffs the Air Over California as Wild Fires Rage

By SpaceRef Editor
July 2, 2008
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In an effort to better understand the chemical nature of smog and greenhouse gases, scientists from the California Air Resources Board, CARB are collaborating with NASA scientists who are flying specially configured aircraft — the DC-8 and the P-3 — up and down the California coast this month and over the Central valley at varying altitudes. These airborne platforms are taking hundreds of air samples and measuring the composition of chemicals in the atmosphere over California. The CARB initiative is part of the larger Arctic Research of the Troposphere from Aircraft and Satellites, ARCTAS field campaign that is examining the role that migrating air pollution is playing in the Arctic’s changing climate.

NASA’s DC-8 airborne laboratory will log about 33 flight hours, taking four flights from the NASA Dryden Aircraft Operations Center, Palmdale, over an area extending from San Diego to as far north as Trinidad Head along the coast north of Eureka, Calif. NASA is also sending a specially outfitted P-3 aircraft on one eight-hour flight from the NASA Ames Research Center, Mountain View, Calif., and an ER-2 from NASA Dryden to fly over the state for additional sampling during the same time period.

The collected samples will help CARB identify the sources of greenhouse gas emissions throughout California, transboundary pollution from Asia and Mexico, and emissions from the extensive wildfires currently devouring large swaths of acreage in the state. Another scientific objective is to understand the different types of pollution blowing into California from offshore vessels and to differentiate air mass chemistries between urban and rural areas.

“We will provide highly advanced capability to develop critically needed information on pollutant emissions and atmospheric concentrations both offshore and onshore over California, allowing us to better model air quality and future climate change,” said Hanwant Singh, an Ames project scientist.

“This collaboration will give us information on how pollution is created, transported and even destroyed,” said Bart Croes, chief of the Air Resources Board’s Research Division. “The use of highly sophisticated technology, data gathered at levels far beyond our normal reach and collaboration with NASA’s very knowledgeable technicians and scientists, combine to create a rare opportunity.”

Flights will be coordinated with a series of NASA Earth observing satellites as they pass over the state. Researchers can use these simultaneous measurements to validate satellite data and improve modeled predictions of the impact of atmospheric pollution on California.

The Air Resources Board, a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency, has been a leader in developing and implementing aggressive pollution control measures to combat smog and particulate matter for 40 years. The agency is also working to reduce 25 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, as required by the Global Warming Solutions Act that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed in 2006.

ARCTAS Summer Deployment

The ARCTAS campaign is a two-part scientific mission taking place this year, a designated Polar Year, using air borne measurements and satellite data in order to study man-made and forest fire pollution that has traveled into the ARCTIC atmosphere. Over 120 scientists are supporting the ARCTAS Summer mission that will take place in Cold Lake, Canada while about 25 will participate in Yellow Knife, Canada.

Pollutants from forest fires are of particular interest to these researchers. Pollution from China and other nations on the Far East have also migrated to the ARCTIC and will be studied.

The data gathered through the CARB flights will provide a chemical footprint that can be examined to see how much and what type of pollutants are traveling to the ARCTIC region and what the chemical consequences are for the global climate.

Deborah Robin Croft
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
650-604-6787/ 202-431-6633 (Cell)

SpaceRef staff editor.