Michael Finneran
Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.
757-864-6110 / 757-344-4611 (cell)

Tom Jennings
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
RELEASE : 10-030
Virginia, NASA Keep Eyes on Skies for Air Quality
HAMPTON, Va. -- Air quality in the skies above Hampton Roads will be monitored daily under a new partnership between NASA's Langley Research Center and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

The agreement relocates the state agency's air-quality measurement operation to Langley following closure of the Hampton organization where it had been located, the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind. The DEQ's new site is expected to open in May, said Margaret Pippin, the scientist coordinating the move at Langley.

"This site will bring together the partnership of NASA, DEQ, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a coordinated effort to assess the relationship between space-based observations and surface observations of air quality," Pippin said.

The federal and state agencies are both interested in generating a comprehensive data record of pollution from industrial processes and vehicles.

The DEQ station will be located at Langley's Chemistry and Physics of the Boundary Layer Experiment site (CAPABLE), which will measure ozone and nitrogen dioxide. The DEQ will measure ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter.

The partnership will be mutually beneficial, said Pippin. The DEQ will have a bigger pool of data and a larger location to add to its statewide network of air-quality monitoring sites. And NASA scientists will be able to use the combined measurements to enhance a future satellite mission to measure air quality from space.

Since the early 1970s, the DEQ has worked with the EPA to uphold the standards of U.S. Clean Air Act. That includes taking widespread air quality measurements in Virginia and keeping a data record.

NASA Langley's Science Directorate has a legacy in atmospheric science as well, leading early discoveries about the ozone hole and improving knowledge of human-created pollution on air quality and the atmosphere.

Last week at the new Langley site, NASA and DEQ began monitoring what the U.S. EPA calls "criteria pollutants." These are the emissions from factories, power plants and cars that can damage human health, plants, the environment and infrastructure. They include ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides and other airborne particulates.

"For NASA Langley and the DEQ, I see this as a win-win situation where we can work together, share air-quality data and monitoring information and learn from each other," said Tom Jennings of the DEQ Office of Air Quality Monitoring.

The DEQ's transition to Langley will occur over the next two months and result in two identical environmental shelters positioned in a mirror image to one another -- one for NASA's instruments and the other for DEQ's.

The partnership was formalized in what is called a Space Act Agreement, which was signed last week. The agreement calls for a five-year partnership at the Langley site.

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