RICHLAND, Wash.-Launching what will be the first sky-based study of Puget Sound's air quality, scientists from the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will fly Seattle's periodically hazy skies this month in search of answers about regional ozone and other pollutants.
The study, called Pacific Northwest 2001, is designed to gather first-of-its-kind air chemistry data essential to effectively address regional air quality problems such as ozone and microscopic atmospheric particles, called particulates. Levels of ozone in the greater Seattle area periodically exceed regulatory limits, and particulates, which aggravate asthma sufferers and have been linked to other serious health problems and air pollution-related deaths, are nearing peak recommended levels.
"Despite increased concern about air pollution in our region, no one has captured the atmospheric data needed to understand how pollutants form, travel and interact within the Puget Sound area," said Leonard Barrie, PNNL chief atmospheric scientist and co-coordinator for the study. "We expect this study to fill that information gap and hopefully lead to improvements in models used to forecast pollution levels."
PNNL formed and is leading the multi-organization study, which is being coordinated with the Environmental Protection Agency's Region 10 Office and includes collaborators at Washington State University, the University of Washington, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, the Washington state Department of Ecology and Environment Canada.
From Aug. 13-30, PNNL will conduct research flights in a Gulfstream-1 research aircraft between Seattle and Bellingham, Wash., tracking the flow of pollutants within the greater Puget Sound basin. Scientists hope to gain a better understanding of the distribution, transport and formation of ozone, particulates and the chemicals that form these pollutants in the atmosphere.