As the Summer Olympics in Beijing kicks off this week, the event is giving scientists a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to observe how the atmosphere responds when a heavily populated region substantially curbs everyday industrial emissions.
The National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded "Cheju ABC Plume-Monsoon Experiment" (CAPMEX) will include a series of flights by specially equipped unmanned aircraft known as autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (AUAVs).
The aerial vehicles were developed at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) in La Jolla, Calif. Instruments on the aircraft can measure smog and its effects on meteorological conditions.
Data-gathering flights will originate at the South Korean island of Cheju, located about 1,165 kilometers (725 miles) southeast of Beijing. Cheju is in the projected path of pollution plumes that begin in various cities in China, including the capital.
Information from the flights will be combined with measurements by satellites and observatories on the ground that will track dust, soot and other pollution aerosols that travel from Beijing and other parts of China in so-called atmospheric brown clouds.
The instruments will observe pollution transport patterns as Beijing enacts its "great shutdown" for the Summer Olympic Games. Chinese officials have reduced industrial activity by as much as 30 percent and mandated cuts in automobile use by half, to safeguard the health of competing athletes immediately before and during the games.
"Thanks to the concern of Olympic organizers, the Chinese government, and the cooperation of the Korean government, we have a huge and unprecedented opportunity to observe a large reduction in everyday emissions from a region that's very industrially active," said atmospheric scientist V. Ramanathan of SIO, the lead investigator of CAPMEX.
"CAPMEX will be the very first UAV campaign in east Asia for air pollution a
|Contact: Cheryl Dybas|
National Science Foundation