ESRL Quarterly Newsletter - Fall 2010

Achievement: News

More news from NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory: Tiksi Observatory, Climate Stabilization, Black Carbon in Profile, Prediction Workshop, Summer Students, Houston Emissions Down, Gulf Air Quality, 8th Grade Science Days

Tiksi Observatory   
ESRL scientists were among those celebrating the opening of Tiksi Hydrometeorological Climate Observatory at 73oN, on a patch of windswept Russian tundra. On August 25, representatives from several countries celebrated the installation of state-of-the-art equipment at the site, which will take long-term climate masurements. Taneil Uttal (PSD) helped lead the effort to equip and open Tiksi. Data will be freely available to the international community.
Full Tiksi story:

MADIS Milestone
The ESRL-developed Metorological Assimilation Data Ingest System (MADIS) is now running operationally at the National Weather Service. MADIS achieved “Initial Operating Capability” in September. The system collects, integrates, quality controls and distributes weather observations from NOAA and non-NOAA organizations, making the data available for increasingly high-resolution weather and climate models. More:

Climate Stabilization
ESRL’s Susan Solomon (CSD) chaired the committee that wrote a National Research Council report released in July, Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts over Decades to Millennia. The report quantifies the relationships between emission, concentration, warming, and future impacts. It examines the implications of a range of future greenhouse gas emissions levels, including likely impacts and the potential for serious or irreversible climate changes. More:

Black Carbon in Profile
During a multi-year mission nicknamed HIPPO, ESRL scientists and colleagues from many other institutions have been profiling the atmosphere from pole to pole, and from near the surface to high in the atmosphere. Among the data being gathered are concentrations of particles containing  “black carbon” (soot) emitted from biomass burning, diesel engines, cook stoves, and other sources. Black carbon absorbs sunlight rather than merely reflecting it (as so many other air pollution particles do) so scientists have been keen to understand more about its global distribution.

So far, the sizes of black carbon particles have been surprisingly uniform around the globe, Josh Schwarz (CSD) and colleagues reported in Geophysical Research Letters this fall. The team also found that air quality models overestimate black carbon levels by, on average, a factor of five in remote regions. Although that is probably due to several factors, including stronger sources in the Northern Hemisphere and differences in modeled and actual advection processes at the time of the measurements, the paper identifies a model problem, too: Models underestimate aerosol removal processes. More: doi:10.1029/2010GL044372.

Prediction Workshop
ESRL hosted the Earth System Prediction Capability (ESPC) workshop in September, with high-level officials from NOAA, the Navy, the Air Force, NASA, the Department of Energy, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. About 70 participants discussed establishing a range of operational products that “nowcast” (describe Earth systems at present) and forecast 30 years in future. Participants included Navy Rear Admiral David Titley and NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco.“ These efforts will help us understand...more about how our ocean, atmosphere, land, ice, and more interact—and how people interact with the environment,” Lubchenco said in her keynote address. “The forest fires raging just outside Boulder are just one example of how the lives of people are so directly linked with weather, climate, and land use.” Details:

Summer Students
About 45 high school, undergraduate, and graduate students worked at ESRL and the David Skaggs Research Center this summer, as part of the Practical Hands-on Application to Science Education (PHASE). Student projects ranged from producing a video about a global atmospheric sampling program to an evaluation of air quality trends in California. This year’s internship programs included two high school students sponsored by the National Center for Atmospheric Research; special needs students; and students from groups underrepresented in the sciences.

One of ESRL’s students, Hollings Scholar Chris Slocum, won first place in the Hollings Scholars presentations in Silver Spring, MD, at the end of the summer; and Justin Krosschell won third place. More about NOAA’s student programs in Boulder:

Houston Emissions Down
Haze often hovers over Houston, from chemical pollution produced by petroleum processing facilities. But that haze may be thinning a bit, according to a new ESRL-led study. The researchers found a drop in emissions of some chemicals. But the new findings—which have implications for petrochemical-producing cities around the world—come with a catch: Industry still significantly underestimates the amounts of some reactive chemicals being released into the air. More: Search doi:10.1029/2009JD013645 or see

Gulf Air Quality
When the Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred, ESRL scientists led a quick-response mission to collect air quality data from the region, from the instrument-packed NOAA P3 aircraft. The scientists measured levels of nearly 100 air pollutants, from areas in the vicinity of the spill, downwind, and along the coast. Data are now publicly available. At and near the spill, common air pollutants such as ozone, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide, were at levels typical to those found in urban areas of U.S. cities. Downwind of the slick, several hydrocarbons were in much higher concentrations than typically found in cities.

Scientists also measured large amounts of black carbon in smoke from a controlled burn of crude oil on the water’s surface. The air chemistry flights were conducted to support the efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration to assess air quality for coastal residents and oil spill response workers. More:

8th Grade Science Days
Nearly 300 8th grade students visited the David Skaggs Research Center during the 8th Grade Science Days in October, organized by tour coordinator Hilary Peddicord and outreach specialist Carol Knight. The students learned about weather forecasting, climate change, and what it’s like to work at the South Pole. They watched a Science on a Sphere® presentation, helped launch a weather balloon, took part in a real laser experiment, and used sunspot data to calculate the Sun’s rotation. Public tour information: