NASA begins new year with international Arctic ozone study

Jan. 8, 2003 — NASA researchers, and more than 350 scientists from the United States, European Union, Canada, Iceland, Japan, Norway, Poland, Russia and Switzerland, are working together this winter to measure ozone and other atmospheric gases. The scientists will use aircraft, large and small balloons, ground-based instruments and satellites.

The Arctic campaign runs from Jan. 8 through Feb. 6, 2003. Flights of large balloons will augment the aircraft campaign, extending the measurement period to late March 2003.

This second SAGE III Ozone Loss and Validation Experiment (SOLVE II) campaign will be conducted in close collaboration with the European Commission. It is sponsored by the VINTERSOL (Validation of International Satellites & Study of Ozone Loss) campaign. (SAGE III stands for the third Stratospheric Aerosol & Gas Experiment.) SOLVE takes place in Kiruna, Sweden, the site of the first winter (1999-2000) international effort (SOLVE I).

NASA’s SAGE III satellite instrument is being used to quantitatively assess ozone loss in the higher latitudes. SAGE III was launched onboard a Russian Meteor-3M spacecraft on December 10, 2001. The validation of the SAGE III observations is a principal goal of SOLVE II. SOLVE II is sponsored by NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise, dedicated to better understanding and protecting our home planet.

“The primary goals of the joint SOLVE II-VINTERSOL campaign are to further understanding of ozone loss processes in the Arctic, and provide coincident observations between the airborne and SAGE III measurements. This comparison will enable the satellite scientists to critically and quantitatively assess the in-space performance of their instruments to measure profiles of ozone, aerosols, and water vapor over the Earth,” said Michael Kurylo, SOLVE II co- Program Scientist at NASA Headquarters, Washington.

Ozone studies are important, because the ozone layer prevents the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation from reaching the Earth’s surface. Ultraviolet radiation is a primary cause of skin cancer. Without protective upper-level ozone, there would be no life on Earth.

During the campaign of 1999-2000, record ozone losses of 70 percent were observed at altitudes around 18 kilometers (11 miles), and a great deal was learned about the processes leading to the rapid ozone loss in the Arctic. The SOLVE II campaign will add to that body of knowledge.

During the coming winter, scientists in SOLVE II-VINTERSOL will work toward verifying the accuracy of measurements from current Earth observing satellites. The in situ and remote sensing measurements taken aboard these aircraft will provide a unique data set for comparison with the SAGE III instruments and other satellite instruments.

Teams from the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (France’s National Center for Space Studies) and NASA will launch research balloons carrying payloads weighing up to several hundred pounds from Kiruna. A network of over 30 stations of ground-based instruments will take atmospheric readings over a wide area to show how the chemical composition of Arctic stratosphere evolves through the whole winter.

VINTERSOL is a pan-European campaign involving researchers supported by the European Commission and national research agencies.

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