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NOAA funding research effort to develop global aerosol map
Theo Stein

NOAA funding research effort to develop global aerosol map

A better map of dust in the wind will improve aerosol forecasts

With the smoke of summer wildfires still dimming skies over much of the West, NOAA has announced funding for development of an improved global map of smoke, dust and other aerosol particles that promises to help improve air quality monitoring and forecasting.

Currently, global aerosol observations are sparse, leading to uncertainties in climate model forecasts. The new project, led by a scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder, ultimately aims to improve NOAA’s aerosol forecasts.

“Aerosols are also critical to the Earth’s radiative balance and clouds, thus having a major impact on weather and climate,” said lead investigator Mariusz Pagowski, a CIRES scientist who studies aerosols at NOAA’s Global Systems Division.

Large wildfires blazing in the western United States, storms blowing dust over Europe and Asia, and smog in India and China have people here and around the world talking about air pollution—especially tiny particles or aerosols from fires known as PM2.5, particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter. According to the U.S. EPA, PM2.5, which can become lodged in lungs and exacerbate health problems, is the single most critical factor affecting deaths from air pollution.

The new project is funded through a $495,000 grant from the NOAA Research’s Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections program. Pagowski and his team will use the MAPP Program grant to produce a reliable global map of different aerosol types in the atmosphere. To do this, the researchers will develop novel methods for combining observations with models, a process known as data assimilation. Their goal is to address deficiencies of the current approaches and improve monitoring and aerosol forecasts.

As  the changing climate and growing human population are expected to worsen wildfire seasons and pollution in general, improving NOAA’s aerosol monitoring and forecasting will provide information vital for public health and environmental decision-makers.

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Mariusz Pagowski, a CIRES scientist who works at NOAA’s Global Systems Division, has been awarded a $495,000 MAPP grant to develop an improved global aerosol model.

“This research will benefit scientists involved in aerosol forecasting, as well as the climate, health, and environmental communities,” Pagowski said.

The project’s co-investigators include Arlindo da Silva, a research meteorologist at NASA’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office and Sarah Lu, a research associate at State University of New York at Albany and Georg Grell, a research meteorologist at NOAA’s Global Systems Division in Boulder.  

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