URI Graduate School of Oceanography Lecture Explores the Pros and Cons of Atmospheric Ozone

Media Contact: Lisa Cugini, (401) 874-6642 lcugini@gso.uri.edu

Narragansett, R.I. — December 8, 2003 — The quality of the air we breathe, the quality of the rain bathing the land and sea, and the energy processes forcing Earth’s climate illustrate societal concerns dependent upon the natural and pollutant compounds present in the atmosphere.

The URI Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) will host the fourth in a series of Inaugural Lectures scheduled for the 2003-2004 academic year. “Ozone: Friend of Foe? and Why Other Trace Gases Enter into the Answer” will be presented on Thursday, December 18, at 12:30 p.m. by Dr. Brian G. Heikes, URI atmospheric chemist. The lecture will be held in Corless Auditorium on the URI Bay Campus in Narragansett.

In his lecture, Heikes will discuss how natural ozone in the stratosphere is essential to protecting life from the Sun’s harmful UV radiation, whereas, ozone at ground level is universally shown to cause damage to living organisms. Yet ozone in the lower atmosphere but not at the surface, like stratospheric ozone, may have a beneficial effect, as it is at the core of chemical processes responsible for removing other air contaminants.

Understanding and predicting the chemistry, transport, and fate of tropospheric ozone has spurred on Heikes’s atmospheric chemistry studies of the trace gases hydrogen peroxide, methylhydroperoxide, and formaldehyde. Ozone is a secondary pollutant formed in the air as a byproduct of natural sunlight and water vapor, of pollutant nitrogen oxides, and of pollutant and natural hydrocarbons. This photochemistry is complex and its vigor is captured by hydrogen peroxide, methylhydroperoxide, and formaldehyde.

This lecture will more fully describe the relevance to society and the field programs and species measurements Heikes has undertaken to evaluate ozone and other chemistries in the atmosphere.

A resident of North Kingstown, Heikes received his B.S. and M.S. in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and his Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Michigan. He came to the URI Graduate School of Oceanography as a faculty member in 1988 after spending five years as a scientist in the Atmospheric Chemistry Division at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

The audience for the Inaugural Lectures is the scientific community and the general public with an interest in and knowledge of science. Although technical in nature, Heikes’s talk will not be aimed specifically at chemical oceanographers. The purpose of the talks is to inform the scientific community about the nature and significance of research being carried out by GSO scientists.

The lectures are free and open to the public. Subsequent lectures will be held every third Thursday of the month at 12:30 p.m. in Corless Auditorium on the URI Bay Campus. For information, call 874-6246.