URI Graduate School of Oceanography Scientists Test the
Chemistry of the Atmosphere
Narragansett, RI. -- February 16, 2000--With the help of a $280,000 grant
from the National Science Foundation (NSF), University of Rhode Island Graduate
School of Oceanography (GSO) atmospheric chemists Brian Heikes and John
Merrill of North Kingstown and Julie Snow of Wakefield, along with a
team of investigators from other institutions, have begun a series of atmospheric
sampling flights and balloon launches to study the origin of ozone in the
troposphere, which extends from the earth's surface to 6-12 miles above
the earth. Their research is part of the Tropospheric Ozone Production about
the Spring Equinox (TOPSE) experiment.
Snow, a GSO doctoral candidate under the supervision of Dr. Heikes, is
stationed in Colorado and is operating chemical sampling equipment, developed
by Heikes at GSO, onboard a National Center for Atmospheric Research C-130
aircraft, along with thirteen other experimenters plus flight crew onboard.
The plane and experimenters will be conducting a bi-weekly series of flights
from near Denver, CO, to Churchill, Manitoba, to north of Thule, Greenland,
and return. The field mission period extends from February through May 2000
and will capture the photochemical transition from the cold-dark-dry condition
of winter to the warm-moist-sunlit condition of summer.
It has long been recognized that Northern Hemispheric ozone experiences
a maximum in spring; however, it is not known why. Two competing hypotheses
are currently being studied: the ozone maximum is the result of photochemistry
acting on accumulated pollutants over winter or the ozone maximum is the
result of increased the transport of ozone from the stratosphere, 6-30 miles
above the earth, down to the troposphere. The TOPSE experiment's prime science
objective is to test the photochemical origin hypothesis under changing
The NSF-sponsored project consists of a suite of instruments on the aircraft
to measure hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide, sulfur gases, ozone, particles,
sunlight, and oxidants. The aircraft measurements are complemented by and
complement other ozone data, satellite observations and meteorological observations.
Dr. Merrill is coordinating measurements of the vertical profile of ozone
using instruments at four sites along the aircraft track. These data will
supplement the aircraft measurements, meteorological analyses, and satellite
observations of ozone and water vapor. This combination of field observations,
remote sensing and modeling efforts is one of the most complete documentation
and analysis of ozone, its precursors and photochemistry, and atmospheric
dynamics over North America during this time period.
A complete description of equipment, people, science plan, and preliminary
results can be found on the web at: http://topse.acd.ucar.edu.
Contact: Lisa Cugini, (401) 874-6642 firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian Heikes (401) 874-6810 email@example.com