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UNH and Senator Judd Gregg Announce $5.3 Million Air Quality Program
DURHAM, N.H. -- A $5.3 million initiative to better understand the dynamics of New England's atmosphere, air quality and weather will be based at the University of New Hampshire.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and UNH have agreed to establish a new Cooperative Institute for Atmospheric Investigation, Regional Monitoring, Analysis and Prediction, or AIRMAP.

The joint effort will combine NOAA's atmospheric research with UNH-led systematic monitoring of New England's regional air quality. This will provide detailed understanding of the sources of various air pollutants, and lead to an ability to predict air quality changes as an addition to daily weather forecasts.

The news came in a joint announcement by U. S. Senator Judd Gregg and UNH unveiling a package of developments:

NOAA and UNH have finalized a memorandum of agreement to establish a permanent AIRMAP Cooperative Institute,

NOAA has finalized a $1.4 million grant to UNH for work in the coming year, and

Senator Gregg announced that he has included an additional $2 million for AIRMAP in NOAA's appropriation for next year; combined with funds appropriated earlier, this brings the total over a three-year period to nearly $6 million.

According to Senator Gregg, "New England's wonderfully complex weather makes it a perfect place to study the interaction of weather and air pollution, and their effect on regional climate. I am delighted that UNH has taken the lead in partnership with NOAA in regional research to understand the complexities linking air quality, weather, and climate. While much more difficult than focusing on individual pollutants, it is this willingness to tackle tough challenges that distinguishes NOAA."

Robert Talbot, research professor in UNH's Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space and director of the new AIRMAP Cooperative Institute, says the effort is unique in the comprehensive nature of its monitoring and analysis. "Until now, most research has focused on individual pollutants rather than comprehensive efforts to understand how they interact and move from area to area as part of regional weather patterns."

The program announced today will include three comprehensive atmospheric monitoring stations operating year-round in Durham, N.H., at Castle Springs in Moultonborough, N.H., and on the summit of Mount Washington. This series of stations will enable researchers to separate out pollutants transported into the region from others produced locally in New England. The study will include the effects of fine particulates in the atmosphere that lead to visibility reduction and human respiratory problems.

By integrating weather patterns with atmospheric chemistry studies, researchers hope to be able to determine sources as diverse as the Asian mainland, northeastern U.S. vehicle pollution, and industrial sources from the Midwest and Canada.

Talbot points out that there at least 65 air monitoring stations in New England, but many only operate in the summer months and measure a small group of pollutants. Thus, these data are of limited use for understanding how various pollutants interact with each other, and how they collectively impact regional climate.

The AIRMAP project is monitoring a comprehensive suite of air pollutants using state-of-the-art technology that provides high time resolution data. Many of the changes in weather patterns occur very quickly, and the AIRMAP network will capture these events.

In addition to UNH researchers, the UNH-managed AIRMAP program funds activities at the Meteorology Department at Plymouth State College and the Mount Washington Observatory, and operates in partnership with NOAA's Aeronomy and Forecast Systems Laboratories in Boulder, Colorado.

The program also includes activities to develop detailed weather history of New England over a longer period than now used in weather forecast models, and to demonstrate new weather forecast technologies that will be used by NOAA's National Weather Service.

Editors, News Directors:

For further information, contact Robert Talbot, professor of atmospheric chemistry at UNH's Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space and director of the new AIRMAP Cooperative Institute, at 603-862-1546.

By Sharon Keeler
UNH News Bureau