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Air quality is the result of complex interactions between meteorology (wind and rain), natural and anthropogenic (man-made) emissions of precursor gases, and atmospheric photochemistry. This chemical soup has important implications for air and water pollution, rainfall, climate, and other processes that regulate ecosystem activity.

To understand these complex processes, we are developing measurement and modeling tools to study atmospheric trace constituents to determine the accuracy of our air-quality regulatory models. The heart of the measurement complex resides in the laboratories of the Regional Atmospheric Profiling Center for Discovery, RAPCD (pronounced rhapsody). This center, located in Huntsville, Alabama, is part of the National Space Science and Technology Center (NSSTC) and comprises investigators from three universities, three NASA centers, and two NOAA laboratories. The RAPCD infrastructure includes 1400 square feet of laboratory space on the top floor of the NSSTC annex with six vibration-isolated optical benches, nine remote-sensing chimneys through the roof, and 1900 square feet of platform space on the roof. Remote-sensing instrumentation includes four pulsed lidars and a Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometer, for measuring vertical profiles of ozone, winds, aerosols, and other trace gases.

An additional FTIR obtains fundamental measurements on simulated atmospheric constituents in laboratory chambers. Two CG4 Pyrgeometers have recently been added to the RAPCD instrumentation facilities.  These instruments collect data that is analyzed and used for inputs into radiative transfer models. A new FTIR in RAPCD will be used as a cryogenic air quality monitoring system sampling for speciated VOC’s.  By using state-of-the-science technology, we will continuously measure the three-dimensional structure of atmospheric ozone, aerosols, and wind fields.

Currently, only four locations in the United States (Trinidad Head, CA; Boulder, CO; Huntsville, AL; and Wallops Island, VA) make regular (and then only weekly) measurements of the ozone vertical profile with balloon-borne ozonesondes and one site (Table Mountain Facility, CA) makes regular ozone lidar measurement. Other gases and aerosols are not regularly profiles anywhere in the US. Along with the few other profiling sites in the US we would like to form a regional network to measure and model the three-dimensional structure of air pollution.

We are also forming a computer-modeling center for calculating the atmospheric state with the latest EPA air-quality model (CMAQ) driven by the Penn State University/NCAR meteorological model, MM5, coupled with EPA’s Models3/CMAQ (Community Multiscale Air Quality model) for 3D chemical transport modeling. We will assess the accuracy of these model calculations and the processes that occur to produce a variety of air quality conditions by using satellite observation of trace gases and aerosols. We will be addressing the urban/regional air pollution issues with a view of its larger impact on global tropospheric chemistry. Drawing on our current assets in satellite remote sensing of chemical constituents, meteorological modeling, and laboratory measurements implemented in a structure of higher education for undergraduate and graduate students, we will produce a national asset of the highest caliber for measuring and assessing the causes and cures for regional air pollution.


This website is an informative resource about Atmospheric Chemistry at UAH.
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