The link between Alabama’s air quality and weather

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT-TV) Across much of the U.S. and in many other places around the world temperatures are rising.  Everywhere, that is, expect the Southeast U.S.  While many scientists are trying to explain so-called “global warming”, one group is seeking to unlock the mysteries of our region’s cooling,  Unlikely Bibb county is home to a gathering of scientists from around the country combing through the air, looking for answers.  One of the team leaders, Dr. Annmarie Carlton of Rutgers University, has a theory about Alabama weather.  She believe that tiny dust particles are systematically blocking incoming solar radiation, keeping the mercury from rising.

SOAS

Contrary to what you might think, not all of what is in the air is pollution.  Our hazy skies do contain a lot of that, but it also has gas, naturally coming from trees and plants.  The questions are – how much of the haze is man-made, how much is organic and exactly how do these particles impact weather patterns.  The Southern Oxidant and Aerosol Study (SOAS) brings together over 100 scientists from over 30 research institutions to collect samples of the air over Alabama, Tennessee and North Carolina.  It’s the largest such gathering in decades.

The scientists also launch a daily balloon containing instruments to analyze the weather in the atmosphere above.  That data is crucial to helping make the link between aerosols and climate.  Some of the air samples collected during the study will be analyzed in the months to come when the scientists return to their home research institutions.  Other data will be examined in makeshift labs set up in trailers on Margie Kinder’s backyard in Brent.  She’s amused by all the activity. “I don’t know what they’re doing, but they do”, she told me.  I met Margie at an open house set up for the study’s sponsors from the National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Electric Power Institute.

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8 year old Kyle Cottingham helps scientist Timothy Lin launch a weather balloon

The study began June 1 and continues through July 15.  You can learn more about the project here and watch my complete interview with Dr. Carlton here.

 

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