University and DEC Join New Ozone Research Effort

The problem of urban smog has bedeviled scientists and public policy-makers for more than 30 years. Now, a new national research program is underway to re-examine the problem of ozone and other smog products, and the University's Atmospheric Sciences Research Center (ASRC) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) have teamed up to advance the research effort.

DEC provided a van that was outfitted by the ASRC with specialized air monitoring equipment. The van is serving as one Photochemical Air Monitoring Station (PAMS) in a national network. It is currently at the ASRC but will normally be located in southwest New York. It will provide regular measurements of the amount of ozone, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons in the lower atmosphere at that site.

The ASRC field station on Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks and the DEC station in Loudonville are other monitoring sites in the national network.

"Despite efforts to control ozone, air quality has not improved as much as we had hoped," says ASRC research scientist Jim Schwab. "And one lesson we've all learned is that no one control strategy works in all situations."

"Ground-level ozone irritates the respiratory system and can cause decreased lung function," said DEC's director of the Division of Air Resources, Art Fossa. "This cooperative research effort is part of New York's aggressive effort to understand and control ozone formation in order to provide healthier air for New Yorkers."

Fossa explained that ground-level ozone is a pollutant and the main component of smog. It is formed when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds react chemically in the presence of sunlight.

The new national study, officially called the North American Research Strategy for Tropospheric Ozone (NARSTO), is funded through public-private partnerships and is designed to improve scientists' understanding of the chemical, physical, and meteorological processes that control ozone formation and concentrations over North America. It is hoped that the information gained through the study will help policy-makers craft more effective strategies to manage ozone concentrations.

"This program exemplifies the contribution of the University's internationally recognized atmospheric scientists in addressing critical problems affecting our environment," said Jeanne E. Gullahorn, Vice President for Research and Dean of Graduate Studies.

The ASRC measurement program, under the direction of ASRC Director Kenneth Demerjian, is an extension of a long-term research monitoring effort supported by the Empire State Electric Energy Research Corporation (ESEERCO).

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