Science Introduction

The California Air Resources Board (CARB), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the California Energy Commission (CEC) are proposing a joint field study of atmospheric processes over California and the eastern Pacific coastal region in 2010. This study will particularly emphasize the interactions between air quality and climate change issues, including those affecting the hydrologic cycle. It will constitute one of a series of comprehensive regional air quality and climate assessments conducted by NOAA and an expansion of CARB's leadership of California air quality studies. It will complement the ongoing CEC regional climate change studies, and cooperate fully with that program. The CalNex White Paper PDF file summarizes the policy-related interests that drive this study and the specific research goals that motivate CARB's, NOAA's and CEC's execution of this study. This multi-agency study will bring together specialized, complementary resources such that the outcome will be able to answer important scientific questions that have an impact on environmental policy.

A Unique Opportunity

California Leadership

California is the world's 12th largest source of carbon dioxide, the chief heat-trapping gas that causes global warming. The state has a responsibility to reduce its share of emissions, and by doing so can lead the United States-and the world-in developing the innovative policies and technologies needed to avoid the most dangerous consequences of global warming. (

The timing of this study and the availability of unprecedented resources for atmospheric research in California reflects the conjunction of interests among NOAA, CARB, and CEC in developing a unified understanding of the issues at the heart of coupled air quality and climate change problems. NOAA's research program embodies a "one atmosphere" perspective that addresses both air quality and climate change issues. This program utilizes state-of-the-art airborne, ship- and ground-based instrument packages, and is effected through regional assessments conducted throughout the U.S. This impels NOAA to seek out regional government and academic researchers to complement its own national-scale research efforts with local understanding of specific problems. California's evolving regulatory posture, including CARB's new initiatives focused on climate change and goods movement, demands much greater understanding of processes aloft and offshore to relate California conditions to continental and global processes and trends. CEC, through its Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program, is charged with developing greater understanding of the effects of global pollution and climate change on California, with special emphasis on the impacts on air quality and water resources. A full investigation of these impacts requires a continental-to-hemispheric perspective. Thus NOAA's larger-scale perspective, capabilities and experience are an ideal complement to CARB's and CEC's deep understanding of local atmospheric issues in California.

This opportunity will not reoccur. NOAA field programs, conducted every second year, follow a rotation to provide support to regions across the U.S. Thus their participation cannot be postponed. CARB is embarking on new regulatory activities that arise from Assembly Bill 32-Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. These activities require scientific support. The timeline of this work makes a 2010 field study much more valuable than deferring to the distant future. The impacts of climate change are growing. CEC has a pressing need to understand these impacts. Together, these participants can generate a uniquely integrated view of atmospheric processes along the western boundary of North America. The cost for any one agency to undertake a field project of this scale would be prohibitive.

Planning of CalNex 2010 will be well-informed by utilizing results from research studies contracted by the CARB and CEC. CARB plans to capitalize upon two highly instrumented NASA aircraft platforms that will be temporarily available in California in July 2008. Only short-term measurements will be possible from these NASA platforms, but the results will be invaluable for characterizing the scope and scale of the spatial variability of atmospheric constituents from well over the Pacific Ocean, through the coastal zone, and inland. CEC with Scripps Institution of Oceanography will conduct a field study in 2008. Additional information on the CARB and CEC funded research efforts is included under the heading Planning and Integration of Research Programs.

The Synergy of NOAA, CARB, CEC and Other California Institutions

NOAA has the ability to study the atmosphere over large areas of ocean and land rapidly by employing large, richly instrumented, long-range aircraft, a fully capable oceanographic vessel and ground based instruments designed to study meteorologically driven transport patterns. These assets provide a unique capability to study the composition of the offshore marine troposphere (including intercontinental transport of pollution), the ocean-air interface in coastal and off-shore areas of California, the modification of marine air as it moves onshore through coastal cities and into interior areas of the State, the atmospheric boundary layer and regional air flow between multiple air basins. California offers a research environment rich in baseline data, an on-going atmospheric monitoring capacity (CARB and local air quality management districts) and existing strong academic research capabilities (e.g., the U.C. system and private universities such as Stanford and California Institute of Technology). CEC provides the expertise of the investigators currently funded by the PIER Program on regional climate modeling, use of research aircraft to monitor the effect of aerosols on cloud behavior and the long-term monitoring of transported pollutants aloft using unmanned aircraft.

This collaboration will link short-term data gathered during the field program to extensive surface observations, long term data sets, and California's advanced modeling capabilities for both regional air quality and climate.

For further information, download the CalNex White Paper PDF file