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DOE scientists sample the skies



This summer, scientists from the DOE's Argonne National Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will be participating in the International Consortium for Atmospheric Research on Transport and Transformation (ICART2) experiment, an effort to understand how pollutants from the Northeastern U.S. affect climate and air quality as they spread over the North Atlantic Ocean. Other collaborators include the National Atmospheric and Oceanographic Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the University of New Hampshire, and others.

The DOE scientists, funded and coordinated by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research (OBER) within DOE's Office of Science, will focus on sampling aerosol pollutants and evaluating their effects on Earth's radiation balance and climate forcing for a portion of the study known as the NorthEast Aerosol eXperiment (NEAX). They will conduct regional air-sampling flights from Latrobe Airport, located about 25 miles east of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from July 15ľAugust 15 aboard a G-1 Gulfstream research aircraft operated by PNNL carrying research-grade instruments developed at both BNL and PNNL. Additional ground-based instruments deployed by ANL and PNNL scientists will provide complementary data.

Aerosols such as sulfur compounds result from emissions by fossil-fuel-burning power plants and other industrial processes. By themselves, and by affecting the brightness of clouds, they may increase the amount of incoming sunlight that is reflected back into space, thereby exerting a partial cooling effect on Earth's climate. But because their concentrations are highly variable and because they are removed from the atmosphere fairly quickly, it is difficult to assess these effects and the impact of aerosols on climate without collecting real data.

So the scientists participating in NEAX will conduct studies of aerosol formation and growth in point source and urban plumes with different characteristics. They'll also conduct air-mass scale studies to see how the chemical, microphysical, and optical properties of aerosols evolve as the air-mass ages and is transported away from its source. Ultimately, they hope to characterize how much aerosols and aerosol precursors in the Midwest contribute to the aerosol burden in the western North Atlantic.

In addition to $1 million for the G-1 aircraft and approximately 10 DOE-funded scientists, the Atmospheric Sciences Program within OBER is contributing about $300,000 in funding for the study. All measurement data from DOE will be made fully and freely available to both the scientific community and the public.

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