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NASA launches airborne study of arctic atmosphere, air pollution
Date:4/1/2008

This month, NASA begins the most extensive field campaign ever to investigate the chemistry of the Arctic's lower atmosphere. The mission is poised to help scientists identify how air pollution contributes to climate changes in the Arctic.

The recent decline of sea ice is one indication the Arctic is undergoing significant environmental changes related to climate warming. NASA and its partners plan to investigate the atmosphere's role in this climate-sensitive region with the Arctic Research of the Composition of the Troposphere from Aircraft and Satellites (ARCTAS) field campaign.

"It's important that we go to the Arctic to understand the atmospheric contribution to warming in a place that's rapidly changing," said Jim Crawford, manager of the Tropospheric Chemistry Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "We are in a position to provide the most complete characterization to date for a region that is seldom observed but critical to understanding climate change."

The campaign begins this week in Fairbanks, Alaska. NASA's DC-8, P-3 and B-200 aircraft will serve as airborne laboratories for the next three weeks, carrying instruments to measure air pollution gases and aerosols and solar radiation. Of particular interest is the formation of the springtime "arctic haze." The return of sunlight to the Arctic in the spring fuels chemical reactions of pollutants that have accumulated over the winter after travelling long distances from lower latitudes.

"The Arctic is a poster child of global change and we don't understand the processes that are driving that rapid change," said Daniel Jacob, an ARCTAS project scientist at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. "We need to understand it better and that's why we're going."

ARCTAS is NASA's contribution to an international series of Arctic field experiments that is part of the International Polar Year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of E
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Contact: Steve Cole
stephen.e.cole@nasa.gov
202-358-0918
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Source:Eurekalert

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