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Sen. Gregg, NOAA Chief and UNH President Announce Largest-ever Air Quality/Climate Study To Begin This Summer
DURHAM, N.H. -- U.S. Senator Judd Gregg, Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and Ann Weaver Hart, president of the University of New Hampshire, today announced that the largest air quality study ever conducted will occur this summer and use coastal New Hampshire as its platform hub. Hundreds of scientists from across the country and around the world will converge to use the most advanced instrumentation available to probe atmospheric dynamics and chemistry.

This summer's air campaign will involve 12 airplanes, one sea-going research vessel, high-tech balloons, satellites, and a network of state-of-the-art ground-based observing stations. The study will be led by NOAA's Aeronomy Laboratory in conjunction with the UNH Atmospheric Investigation, Regional Modeling, Analysis, and Prediction (AIRMAP) program - a cooperative NOAA/UNH institute based at UNH's Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space. A host of other institutions from around the country will also be involved in this summer's project, as well as scientists from Britain, France, Germany, and Canada.

The research is part of the New England Air Quality Study - a five-year, $9 million effort made possible with funds secured by Gregg in his position as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds NOAA. In addition to the air campaign, Gregg also announced the start of daily NOAA air quality forecasts for the New England region set to begin next fall. The new operational air quality forecast capability is the direct result of Gregg's efforts.

Speaking at EOS on the Durham campus, Gregg said, "The positive effects of this study reach far beyond the borders of New Hampshire. The real-time air quality measurements and forecasts will help those who are particularly sensitive to poor air quality the same way weather forecasters predicting blizzards help people traveling by air or on the roads. The study also examines where pollution affecting our region comes from, allowing scientists to provide informed recommendations on how and why emissions from power plants should be changed. The tremendous results the program has yielded so far, like those shown today, will continue to bring acclaim to the University of New Hampshire and enhance its reputation as a first-class research institution."

Joining Gregg, Lautenbacher, and Hart in the announcement were Daniel Albritton, director of the NOAA Aeronomy Laboratory; John E. Jones, Jr., deputy director of the National Weather Service; Berrien Moore, director of EOS; John Lynch, chair of the University System Board of Trustees; and Robert Talbot, chief scientist for AIRMAP and director of the Climate Change Research Center housed at EOS.

"We are indebted to Senator Gregg for his leadership in making this critically important research possible. The senator's continued support for the AIRMAP program has established the university as a national center for atmospheric investigation," Hart said.

A preliminary field campaign in the summer of 2002 - itself large by historic standards - produced a wealth of data, raised some tantalizing questions, and set the stage for this second, much larger field campaign. The intensive fieldwork will begin July 1 and run through mid-August. The study will focus on understanding sources of air pollution in the Northeast by differentiating local, regional, and distant sources, and by analyzing the transport and chemical evolution of air masses on a large geographic scale.

"The goal of these New England Air Quality Studies is to provide the solid science to underpin future efforts to improve air quality for the citizens in this region and, eventually, across the United States. That goal is a good fit with NOAA. Science to support decisions is at the heart of NOAA's information service mission," Lautenbacher said.

The unprecedented combination of broad geographic coverage and very detailed chemical analyses will provide information critical for new daily air quality predictions by NOAA's National Weather Service.

The summer campaign will see the first-ever use of a new ozone sensor developed at UNH with funding secured by Gregg. This four-ounce instrument costing under $1,000 matches the quality of existing large units, yet is designed for use on balloon missions probing the evolution and movement of ozone in polluted air parcels. It also will be field tested for use in a future ground-level air quality observing network many consider essential to improve the accuracy of air quality forecasts. UNH also has begun work on new aerosol light scattering and fine particle instruments.

David Sims
Science Writer
Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space
(603) 862-5369