Dale F. Hurst earned his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry (cum laude) from the University of California, Irvine (UCI), in 1983. This was followed by Masters of Science (1987) and Doctor of Philosophy (1990) degrees in chemistry, with specialization in atmospheric chemistry, under the research supervision of Professor F. Sherwood Rowland at UCI. Dale’s Ph.D. dissertation “Seasonal Variations in the Latitudinal Distribution of Tropospheric Carbon Monoxide, 1986-1988” provided him with ample opportunities to travel to Pacific islands and New Zealand, collecting air samples for research.
In 1990 Dale was awarded a 3-year Australian Research Council Fellowship to study trace gas emissions from biomass fires in Australia with Dr. David Griffith at the University of Wollongong. Dale was part of two field campaigns in northern Australia that employed aircraft to sample smoke from savanna fires. Back in the home laboratory, he analyzed the smoke samples for numerous trace gases using gas-phase and matrix-isolation Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy. His favorite part of this was living in Kakadu National Park during the second field campaign, which was conducted at an ecological fire study site (Kapalga Station) within the Park.
In mid-1993 Dale was awarded a National Research Council (USA) Fellowship at NOAA/CMDL to build an automated 4-channel gas chromatograph (GC) for operation at a tall (496 m) tower in Grifton, North Carolina. Autonomous GC measurements of 12 trace gases from three heights on the tower began in late 1994. In 1995 he built a similar GC for a second tall tower (Park Falls, WI). Though in rural areas, these towers were intermittently influenced by pollution from distant urban centers. The GC data were used to quantify regional emissions of halocarbons and other anthropogenic gases, as well as to document a reduction in the variability of halocarbon mixing ratios that implied their U.S. emissions were diminishing because of the Montreal Protocol.
Dale was the lead scientist for the 4-channel Airborne Chromatograph for Atmospheric Trace Species (ACATS-IV) from September 1997 through December 2004, and worked to steadily increase its measurement quality and dependability for airborne science missions. During this period ACATS-IV was deployed on the NASA ER-2 aircraft for the 1997 POLARIS (Fairbanks, AK) and 2000 SOLVE (Kiruna, Sweden) missions, the University of North Dakota Cessna Citation II aircraft for the 2003 COBRA-North America study (USA and Canada), and the Trans-Siberian Railway for the 2001 TROICA-7 and 2004 TROICA-8 expeditions. Each of the two Russian expeditions included a two-week train ride from Moscow to Khabarovsk (and back), a 17,000-km round trip. These rail journeys were a unique way to see the vastness of Russia.
Dale began work in early 2005 to fly a 2-channel GC, the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Chromatograph for Atmospheric Trace Species (UCATS), on the Altair UAS. His work with UCATS resulted in a very successful NOAA UAS demonstration project in October 2005. Several months later, in summer 2006, UCATS successfully flew on Altair again for the USDA Forest Service FIRE mission. During these two UAS missions UCATS amassed more than 120 hours of high-quality trace gas measurements, including four flights of long (>18 hrs) duration. In April 2007, Dale and colleagues were awarded a “Bronze Team Award” for their pioneering work demonstrating the utility of UAS in making in situ measurements of trace gases.
In spring 2008, the Stratosphere-Troposphere Analysis of Regional Transport (START-08) project introduced Dale to yet another class of airborne platform for in situ measurements of trace gases – the NSF Gulfstream-V aircraft. This large executive jet has tremendous airborne capabilities that allowed it to probe the mid-latitude tropopause region, looking for signs of anomalous atmospheric transport. Dale operated and maintained UCATS for the 120 research flight hours, often while seated just behind UCATS in the aircraft cabin. Overall, UCATS produced quality trace gas, ozone, and water vapor data for 17 of the 18 science flights of START-08.
In September 2009, Dale switched gears and became the water vapor project leader for the ESRL Global Monitoring Division. His main duties now include: continuing to improve the NOAA-built balloon-borne cryogenic frost point hygrometer (FPH) and overseeing the ongoing 28-year-old record of stratospheric water vapor soundings over Boulder (with the FPH). Every two weeks we launch a weather balloon carrying a FPH, ozonesonde, and radiosonde from Boulder (since 1980) and Lauder, New Zealand (since 2004). These water vapor vertical profile data, especially in the upper troposphere and stratosphere, may provide important clues about shifts in atmospheric circulation as a result of climate change.
Dale has received several awards for his scientific and outreach work including the American Institute of Chemists Award (1983), Outstanding Student Speaker Award, UC Irvine (1989), membership in Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Lambda Upsilon (1983), and six different NASA Group Achievement Awards (1993-2008). In 2000, he and three colleagues were awarded the Award of Excellence from the CIRES Members’ Council. His first-authored paper “Emissions of ozone-depleting substances in Russia during 2001” was selected as an Outstanding Scientific Paper for 2005 by the NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research.