Langley Signs Space Act Agreement With DEQ
By: Jennifer Collings

The Science Directorate at NASA's Langley Research Center and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) have entered into a five-year Space Act Agreement that paves the way for the permanent relocation of the DEQ's air-quality monitoring site.

The DEQ site will be located at the Chemistry And Physics Atmospheric Boundary Layer Experiment (CAPABLE) observation site, which opened at Langley last summer for various research groups to join NASA scientists in taking air quality measurements.

The cooperation of different air quality groups helps to create a powerhouse of data for environmental and public health research. Many of the groups at the CAPABLE site will be measuring what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified as "criteria pollutants." Those pollutants, such as ozone, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, can cause damage to human health, plant life, buildings and structures and must be monitored daily.

Installing instruments in the NASA shelter.

Boris Leonoff and Anton Sorkin install Department of Environmental Quality atmospheric monitoring instruments in a Langley shelter until new instruments and a new shelter are provided in May. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith.

Click on the image for a larger view

"The CAPABLE site will also bring together the partnership of NASA, DEQ and the EPA in a coordinated effort to assess the relationship between space-based observations and surface observations of air quality," explains Margaret Pippin of the Science Directorate, who has been coordinating preparations to accommodate the DEQ at Langley.

One of the space-based platforms to benefit from the DEQ's arrival at the CAPABLE site will be the next-generation mission known as the Geostationary Coastal and Air Pollution Events (GEO-CAPE). GEO-CAPE will monitor surface pollution over North America at an enhanced time-scale.

"We are going to compare the ground measurements at the CAPABLE site with data from satellites orbiting right now. That way when GEO-CAPE is in orbit and taking measurements all day long, we will ready and able to look at the data," explains Doreen Neil, a member of the GEO-CAPE Science Working Group.

The plan to move the DEQ's site to Langley began in 2008 when Pippin's summer students were touring the previous DEQ site. DEQ officials mentioned that they needed to move their air-monitoring site. "That chance comment got back to Dr. Pippin, and she followed up with us, asking about potentially moving the site to Langley. Information was exchanged, visits were made and that's when the negotiations began," says Tom Jennings from the DEQ’s Office of Air Quality Monitoring.

Since 1972, the DEQ had been measuring local pollution from its Hampton Roads air-monitoring site, located at a school in Hampton. When that facility was shut down last year, the DEQ was left searching for a new location for its instruments.

"Recently the DEQ has been moving toward larger air quality monitoring sites. Langley's air-monitoring site fits that agenda very well. We are hoping that eventually more instrumentation can be added and this will be our long-term monitoring site," Jennings explained.

The DEQ site transition to Langley will occur over the next two months and will result in two identical environmental shelters positioned in a mirror image to one another. The first shelter, which is already in place, will hold NASA Langley’s instruments. The second shelter, which is being ordered by DEQ’s Office of Air Quality Monitoring, will house the DEQ's instruments.

While the DEQ's shelter isn't scheduled to be delivered until late May, atmospheric measurements have begun. Personnel from the DEQ have temporarily installed ozone and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) analyzers just in time for "ozone season," which started April 1. The ozone and NO2 analyzers, which reside in the NASA shelter, will be moved to the DEQ shelter when it arrives.

"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," Jennings said.


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