April 1, 2008
UI researcher to study Arctic pollution, global warming with $750,000 NASA grant
The Arctic may seem like a strange place to study pollution and global warming, but it's a collection area for much of the world's polluted air, according to a University of Iowa researcher who will use a $750,000 NASA grant to participate in a two-part study of the atmosphere above the Arctic.
Greg Carmichael, professor of chemical and biochemical engineering in the UI College of Engineering, will take part in ARCTAS (Arctic Research of the Composition of the Troposphere from Aircraft and Satellites), with the first stage set for April 1-23, and a three-week phase scheduled in July. He said that the study, a part of International Polar Year, is especially timely because of widespread ice melting in the Arctic Ocean.
Carmichael said that the Arctic is a global change environment where warming has been strongest over the past century and has accelerated in recent decades. "The Arctic is an atmospheric receptor of pollution from the northern mid-latitudes, as shown by thick aerosol layers called "arctic haze" and by the accumulation of persistent pollutants such as mercury," he said.
"The Arctic has also been collecting smoke and residue from recent and massive forest fires of northern Europe, Asia and North America," said Carmichael, who also serves as co-director of the UI Center for Global and Environmental Research (CGRER).
Thanks to ARCTAS, the Arctic -- an extreme environment exposed to global change -- is about to receive extremely close scientific scrutiny.
ARCTAS involves the use of three aircraft and various instruments carried aboard satellites. The UI component of the project, to be conducted in collaboration with Argonne National Laboratory of Argonne, Ill., will provide computer-modeling expertise to help researchers determine the altitudes and locations for flying their aircraft in concert with satellite observations. Students, led by chemical and biochemical engineering graduate research assistant Bhupesh Adhikary, and staff, including Jeremie Moen of CGRER, together with Carmichael, will be based in Fairbanks, Alaska during the April phase of the experiment.
Carmichael said that the experiment will benefit from his team's previous NASA fieldwork experiments, where the UI's regional model has significantly contributed to planning and analysis of aircraft experiments. In 2005, for example, Carmichael and his team received the NASA Group Achievement Award for their contribution to the Intercontinental Chemical Transport Experiment -- North America (INTEX-NA). The project was a major 2004 study over North America where NASA deployed spacecraft, aircraft, and surface sensors to investigate the transport and transformation of gases and aerosols across continents.
Similarly, ARCTAS will provide high-resolution, 3-D regional-scale forecasts of trace gas and aerosol distributions, and meteorological fields in support of very intensive aircraft measurements.
The project will also develop emission inventories of all major pollutants of interest, information needed to support the project's chemical transport modeling activities, including mission flight planning and postmission analysis of observations.
Finally, Carmichael and his colleagues will analyze project data, focusing on the pathways of long-range transport that brings aerosols, ozone, mercury and other pollution to the Arctic.
"We need to understand the pathways of chemical transport to the Arctic," Carmichael said.
The International Polar Year is a large scientific program focused on the Arctic and the Antarctic from March 2007 to March 2009. Organized through the International Council for Science and the World Meteorological Organization, it is the fourth such polar year, preceded by programs in 1882-83, 1932-33, and 1957-58. In order to have full and equal coverage of both the Arctic and the Antarctic, IPY 2007-08 covers two full annual cycles from March 2007 to March 2009 and will involve over 200 projects, with thousands of scientists from over 60 nations examining a wide range of physical, biological and social research topics.
Further information on ARCTAS can be found at http://www.espo.nasa.gov/arctas/.
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