Using satellite imaging and measurements from research aircraft, scientists this summer hope to gain a clearer understanding of significant changes in ecosystems and air quality taking place in central and southern Africa following major social, economic and political shifts in recent years.
A state-of-the-art University of Washington research aircraft will be a key element in the Southern Africa Regional Science Initiative (SAFARI 2000) campaign, taking low-altitude readings that will be correlated to data from a high-flying NASA aircraft and from a satellite that is part of NASA's Earth Observing System.
Equipment on board the UW aircraft, Husky One, will measure concentrations of various gases, including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen oxides and sulfuric oxide, said atmospheric sciences professor Peter Hobbs, who heads the UW's Cloud and Aerosol Research Group. The aircraft will fly below 10,000 feet, measuring pollutants in a subcontinent-sized plume that starts in southern Africa and travels in a counterclockwise rotation thousands of miles to the east, north and finally west, out over the southern Atlantic Ocean.
Trace gases and suspended particles, or aerosols, are pumped into that rotation from three primary sources: fossil-fuel burning and other industrial activities; agricultural fires, wildfires and domestic hearth fires; and natural processes.
In recent years the region not only has faced increased fossil-fuel emissions but also has experienced some of the most extensive biomass burning in the world, most of it linked to savanna burning, firewood consumption and agricultural practices.
"The whole area of southern Africa is going through tremendous change," Hobbs said.
To help understand the ramifications of that change, he and other researchers aboard Husky One will examine pollution at or near its sources in the counterclockwise rotation, then study how the emissions are modified physically and chemically a
Contact: Vince Stricherz
University of Washington