Monthlong intensive mission in Texas complements DOE-led TRACER field campaign
This article was originally published on the NASA Langley Research Center website.
NASA scientists have been in Houston, Texas, this month for an intensive air quality study exploring the effects of emissions and weather on air pollution, as well as the relationship between air quality and socioeconomic factors.
The TRacking Aerosol Convection interactions ExpeRiment-Air Quality (TRACER-AQ) began September 1 and includes both airborne and ground-based measurements of trace gases, aerosols, and weather to help scientists better understand some of the intricacies of air quality in the Houston area.
Specifically, TRACER-AQ scientists and stakeholders want to improve their understanding of how local conditions result in ozone pollution levels that exceed National Ambient Air Quality Standards, or NAAQS, in the region. These data sets will help evaluate the accuracy of modeling platforms used to track pollution and the value of using satellite trace-gas observations to monitor local air pollution.
One aim of the study is to further investigate findings from a paper published in 2020 that found higher levels of nitrogen dioxide in Houston’s low-income, non-white and Hispanic communities. Nitrogen dioxide can cause and/or worsen a number of respiratory conditions. The science team hopes to update these results with newer data as well as expand this work to include other pollutants.
“The most efficient ways to mitigate poor air quality may have evolved over time, as has the technology used to observe it,” said Laura Judd, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and co-principal investigator (PI) for TRACER-AQ. “We are deploying a set of assets that will help us learn how the next generations of satellites can assist in these efforts.”
Judd is overseeing the airborne component of the study, which will be conducted aboard a Gulfstream V research aircraft flying out of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Instruments on the aircraft will measure the distribution and concentration of trace gases such as nitrogen dioxide and formaldehyde, as well as vertical profiles of ozone and aerosols.
Judd’s co-PI, John Sullivan, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is overseeing ground-based operations that will include the use of remote sensors and balloon-borne and surface observations of trace gases, aerosols, and weather. The combined air and ground measurements will allow TRACER-AQ scientists to see how and why air quality over the Houston area changes from hour to hour.
“This whole effort began because of what DOE TRACER was bringing to the table. We owe the successes we’ve built over the last 18 months to all our collaborators and colleagues involved in this mission.”
State and federal agencies are essential partners in TRACER-AQ. The original TRACER is a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-led campaign to study the effects of aerosols on convective clouds in the Houston region. NASA researchers saw the potential to conduct a complementary air quality mission as a matter of public health and as part of the agency’s goal to research the composition of the air we breathe as well as work toward space-based air quality monitoring via the upcoming Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) mission.
“This whole effort began because of what DOE TRACER was bringing to the table,” said Judd. “We owe the successes we’ve built over the last 18 months to all our collaborators and colleagues involved in this mission.”
DOE’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility will conduct the main TRACER campaign in the Houston area from October 1, 2021, through September 30, 2022.
The original article was written by Joe Atkinson, NASA Langley Research Center. The full feature appears on the NASA Langley website.# # #
ARM is a DOE Office of Science user facility operated by nine DOE national laboratories.