US: Scientists at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and partner organisations from across the country are launching a major field project on the northern Front Range of Colorado to track the origins of summertime ozone, an invisible but harmful pollutant.
Known as the Front Range Air Pollution and Photochemistry Experiment (FRAPPÉ), the study will track emissions from both human-related activities and natural sources. It will focus on the urban corridor from south of Denver, north to Fort Collins, as well as the adjacent plains and mountains.
The researchers will use specially equipped aircraft, networks of ground-based instruments, and computer simulations. Results from the month-long study will provide needed information to officials seeking to ensure that air in the region is healthy to breathe.
To provide additional detail across the region, scientists will closely coordinate FRAPPÉ with a second air quality mission taking place on the Front Range at the same time. DISCOVER-AQ (Deriving Information on Surface Conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality) is a major study led by NASA that seeks to improve the ability of satellites to usefully assess our air quality.
“What we learn from these flights will help us to better interpret satellite remote sensing of air quality from geostationary orbit in the future,” said NASA scientist Jim Crawford, a principal investigator on DISCOVER-AQ. “It also will help us to define the best combination of instruments on the ground to connect air quality monitoring networks with satellite information.”
The DISCOVER-AQ flights and ground observations will focus on the northern Front Range, while FRAPPÉ will gather measurements from the surrounding region. In all, approximately 200 scientists, technicians, pilots, and students from around the country will converge on the Front Range for the combined projects.
A full, three-dimensional picture of the processes that affect air quality, including conditions far upwind and high up in the atmosphere, requires a three-pronged approach with measurements from aircraft, satellites, and the ground. “By bringing together aircraft, satellites, and ground-based instruments, we can analyse the amounts and types of pollutants that are emitted in the Front Range as well as transported from other places,” said NCAR scientist Frank Flocke, a principal investigator on FRAPPÉ.
The data gathered by the projects will go through a quality assurance process and then become publicly available in about six months. Scientists will use the data to begin publishing research results in about a year.