Laser Tracks Urban Pollution Presence in Atmosphere
NASA scientist Tom Hanisco is helping to fill a big gap in scientists’ understanding of how much urban pollution — and more precisely formaldehyde — ultimately winds up in Earth’s upper atmosphere where it can wreak havoc on Earth’s protective ozone layer.
He and his team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, have developed an automated, lightweight, laser-induced fluorescence device that measures the levels of this difficult-to-measure organic compound in the lower troposphere and then again at much higher altitudes. The primary objective is determining how much pollution a storm can transport through convection and then using those insights to improve chemistry-climate models. “It’s a major problem in modeling knowing how to treat transport and clouds,” Hanisco explains.
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