Until recently NOAA's research programs in global climate change and regional air quality have been conducted as separate, albeit related, activities. Much of the NOAA research related to climate change is funded out of and directed by the Office of Global Programs in the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR). One focus of this research has been global-scale transport and transformation processes, which is linked to other U. S. based research and international efforts through the International Global Atmospheric Chemistry Program (IGAC). NOAA organized major field campaigns to study pollutant transport from North America to the North Atlantic under the North Atlantic Regional Experiment (NARE) in 1993, 1996 and 1997. NOAA also co-organized major field campaigns to study regional distributions of aerosol properties and their radiative effects as part of the IGAC Aerosol Characterization Experiments (ACE) in 1995, 1997, and 2001. More recently, the transport of Asian pollution to the U.S. west coast was studied in 2002 under the Intercontinental Transport and Chemical Transformation (ITCT) program.
NOAA's Health of the Atmosphere (HoA) research is focused on the atmospheric science that underlies regional and continental air quality, with the goal of enhancing our ability to predict and monitor future changes, leading to improved scientific input to decision-making. The HoA program is a collaborative effort involving several NOAA laboratories and university scientists. Under this program NOAA joined with other federal agencies, university research groups, and interested parties from the private sector to study factors controlling the formation and distribution of ozone and fine particles in a number of settings including: Nashville, TN (1994, 1995, 1999), Atlanta, GA (1999), and Houston, TX (2000).
During each of these intensives NOAA operated instrumented aircraft and participated in specialized ground based and remote sensing measurements. During the summer of 2002 NOAA deployed one of its research vessels, Ronald H. Brown, to the Gulf of Maine as part of the New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS), equipped with a comprehensive set of chemical and meteorological instruments to develop the information needed to plan the current effort.
Clearly, the distinction between the research objectives of these two programs is, at least in part, simply a matter of perspective and scale. Many of the chemical and meteorological processes of interest are common to both. Also, intercontinental transport is either the starting point or the end point of regional air quality concerns depending on whether you are on the west coast (inflow) or east coast (outflow) of the U.S. Thus, in recognition of this strong linkage NOAA will conduct a joint regional air quality and climate change study in the summer of 2004. The study will combine the elements of the previous ITCT and NEAQS studies and will be known as the NEAQS - ITCT 2004. The study will focus on air quality along the Eastern Seaboard and transport of North American emissions into the North Atlantic. The major NOAA assets (the two aircraft and the ship) will be deployed in a manner that will support the objectives of both research programs.