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Advancing our understanding of atmospheric composition and climate

Quarterly Newsletter

Spring 2023 | Issue 5

The Chemical Sciences Laboratory (CSL) is one of ten NOAA Research Laboratories located throughout the United States organized under the office of Oceanic & Atmospheric Research (OAR)CSL is one of four individual OAR labs located within the David Skaggs Research Center (DSRC) in Boulder, Colorado. The research conducted at CSL aims to advance scientific understanding of the chemical and physical processes that affect Earth's atmospheric composition and climate.

Recent News from CSL

UNEP Ozone Secretariat releases updated and redesigned Twenty Questions & Answers About the Ozone Layer: 2022 Update

In May, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Ozone Secretariat released the third and final component of the Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion: 2022, the Twenty Questions and Answers About the Ozone Layer.

The 2022 Twenty Questions and Answers is the fifth update of the original edition. The motivation behind this booklet, popular among policymakers, is to tell the story of ozone depletion, ozone-depleting substances, and the success of the Montreal Protocol. For the 2022 edition, the booklet underwent a complete redesign for a more modern aesthetic.

The questions and answers format divides the narrative into topics that can be read and studied individually by the intended audience of specialists and non-specialists. The topics range from the most basic (e.g., What is ozone?) to more complex topics (e.g., the relationship between ozone depletion and climate change), and includes recent developments (e.g., the Kigali Amendment).

The lead author of the Twenty Questions document, Ross Salawitch of the University of Maryland, managed a team of co-authors including Laura A. McBride (Albright College, US), Chelsea R. Thompson (NOAA Chemical Sciences Laboratory, US), Eric L. Fleming (Science Systems and Applications, Inc. at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, US), Richard L. McKenzie (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, New Zealand), Karen H. Rosenlof (NOAA Chemical Sciences Laboratory, US), Sarah J. Doherty (University of Colorado, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at NOAA Chemical Sciences Laboratory, US) and David W. Fahey (NOAA Chemical Sciences Laboratory, US, and co-chair of the Scientific Assessment Panel (SAP)). CSL led the organization and production of the Twenty Questions booklet as it has for over three decades. Sarah Doherty was the overall coordinator/editor and Chelsea Thompson conceived and executed the aesthetic design and layout of the document.

Read the full story >>

Instrument Installation and Research Flights Underway for Coordinated Nationwide Summer Field Campaigns

Researchers from NOAA CSL and CIRES, along with numerous federal and academic partners, have begun a coordinated set of nationwide, atmospheric field campaigns that will span the summer of 2023. The field campaigns, collectively known as AGES+, bring together a series of individual airborne and ground-based projects led by NOAA, NASA, NCAR, DoE, and several universities with the joint goal of applying next-generation measurement capabilities to investigating our modern-day mix of urban air pollution.

The NOAA effort is headlined by CSL’s Atmospheric Emissions and Reactions Observed from Megacities to Marine Areas (AEROMMA) and Coastal Urban Plume Dynamics Study (CUPiDS) airborne campaigns, alongside coordinated NOAA CPO AC4-funded ground sites, deploying state-of-the-art instruments and models to investigate how the mix of air pollution sources in urban environments have shifted over recent decades and have affected near-surface ozone production and particulate matter formation.

The AEROMMA campaign was the first to launch, with research flights beginning in late June off the coast of California. The project is using NASA’s DC-8 research aircraft, loaded with instruments specially designed to measure an array of important trace gases, including ozone, volatile organic compounds, and sulfur compounds, as well as aerosol properties, such as size distribution, chemical composition, and reflectivity. The first week of flights are targeting marine emissions of sulfur compounds that react in the air to produce sulfate aerosols. Sulfate aerosols can scatter or reflect sunlight and can also lead to formation of marine clouds–properties that make them an important factor for climate.

After the marine flights, the NASA DC-8 and AEROMMA scientists will shift their focus to East Coast urban air quality research, where it will join CUPiDS and the other AGES+ campaigns to investigate the causes of persistent air quality problems over New York City, Chicago, and Toronto. The airborne measurements are also of vital importance for validating the recently-launched TEMPO geostationary atmospheric composition satellite instrument, which is serving as a proving ground for NOAA’s next-generation GeoXO mission.

Learn more about AEROMMA >>

Smoked Out:

Were Wildfires Responsible for Denver's

Record Ozone Season of 2021?

The summer of 2021 was a smoky one for Denver and northeastern Colorado.

Smoky haze from wildfires in Arizona, California, and the Pacific Northwest shrouded the Front Range mountains and cast a gray pallor over the sky on a near-daily basis. The typical pattern of monsoon-driven summer thunderstorms that normally flush out stagnant air in July and August largely failed to materialize, allowing smog cooked under the summer sun in 90-degree heat to pool along the base of the foothills to the west.

All that added up to a record number of days when ground-level ozone, which has long bedeviled the “Queen City of the Plains,” exceeded the 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) of 70 parts per billion averaged over 8 hours set by the US Environmental Protection Agency. In 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed to downgrade the northern Front Range from a “serious” to “severe” violator of the 2008 federal ozone standard.

So how bad was it?

“The smoke was unpleasant to be sure,” said Andrew Langford, a research chemist with NOAA’s Chemical Sciences Laboratory, and lead author of a paper published today in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres. ”Particulates, which you can see, only exceeded the air quality standard a few times that summer. Ozone exceeded the standard on more than half the days. But you can’t see ozone, so this was a much more insidious problem.”

Read the full story >>

Awards & Recognition

CIRES Outstanding Performance Awards at CSL

Two Cooperative Institute researchers at CSL received Outstanding Performance Awards at the annual CIRES Rendezvous in May. The CIRES Outstanding Performance Award (OPA) recognizes Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) employees who have uncommon initiative, resourcefulness, and/or scientific creativity conducting research with potential to expand or change the direction of a particular field or discipline. It also recognizes participation in collaborative and/or multidisciplinary research that engages a broader cross-section than the researcher's typical scientific or engineering community.

Max Holloway received an OPA in the Science and Engineering category for extraordinary support of the Atmospheric Remote Sensing group's instrument development and field deployments, including the CalFiDE wildfire research campaign. Max Holloway's impressive skills in hardware design, CAD, mechanical fabrication, assembly and modification, as well as his extensive knowledge and skill in electronics, have propelled the group's instrument development and field campaign successes.

Lizzy Asher received an OPA in the Science and Engineering category for pioneering deployment of aerosol instrumentation for long-duration flights in the stratosphere – work that has produced illuminating new data. Lizzy Asher is a key contributor to NOAA's Balloon Baseline Stratospheric Aerosol Profiles (B2SAP) project where she has pioneered the deployment of Portable Optical Particle Spectrometers (POPS) at multiple locations and at critical times to measure key episodes, such as the Raikoke (2019) and Hunga-Tonga (2022) volcanic eruptions, as well as the 2022 Australian New Year's fires. 

Read the full story >>

People of CSL — Staff Spotlight

Yunqian Zhu

CIRES scientist Yunqian Zhu joined the Chemistry & Climate Processes research program in August 2022.

Yunqian is a research scientist on stratospheric aerosol and chemistry modeling with a particular focus on aerosol model development. She has developed aerosol models on polar stratospheric clouds formation, volcanic ash and sulfur interaction, and helped to implement tropospheric aerosol into the model.

Yunqian is originally from China, from a town that's humid and warm–the opposite of Colorado. She received her bachelors degree in atmospheric sciences in China and came to Boulder in 2008 for Ph.D study. Prior to coming to CSL, she worked as a researcher at CU Boulder and then at NCAR.

Learn more about Yunqian

Adam Ahern

CIRES scientist Adam Ahern joined the Aerosol Properties & Processes research program in October 2018.

At CSL, Adam works on measuring both particle size distributions as well as ensemble aerosol optical properties. New funding from the NOAA Climate Program Office will allow him to combine these microphysical and optical measurements with particle composition measurements from the ongoing AEROMMA campaign.

Adam is originally from Dunstable, Massachusetts–a rural town that had more cows than people. As an undergraduate at Boston College, he wanted to do environmental research and got a job in an aerosol lab that hosted a black carbon instrument intercomparison study, and that's where he discovered a passion for instrumentation. It's also where he met Shuka Schwarz, a research physicist at CSL, and learned about NOAA; a place where you could work with world-class scientists in service to the public.

With that goal in mind, Adam went to graduate school at Carnegie Mellon University, but got sidetracked when he fell in love with a local girl. After graduation, he took a job at an R&D facility for PPG so that they could stay in Pittsburgh, PA. Now at CSL, Adam explained: "I'm glad I gave industry a shot because you don't know until you try, but I didn't find it very fulfilling. So in 2018, we decided to follow the dream of ikigai (Google it!) and I took a job at NOAA."

Learn more about Adam
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