Michael Braukus Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

(Phone: 202/358-1547) September 23, 1992 Jean Drummond Clough Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va. (Phone: 804/864-6122) RELEASE: 92-155 SCIENCE EXPEDITION TARGETS NEW ATMOSPHERIC OZONE POLLUTION More than 200 scientists from 13 countries are participating in a science expedition, spearheaded by NASA, to investigate newly discovered concentrations of harmful ozone over large regions of southern Africa and Brazil. Believed linked to massive biomass burning on the two continents, the pool of ozone pollution was recently uncovered by satellite analysis. Biomass burning is the consumption by fire of forests or fields. Unlike stratospheric ozone, which is a critical shield against harmful ultraviolet radiation, ozone in the lower atmosphere is a pollutant. Investigation of the new phenomenon will employ a variety of high-tech instrumentation including observations from satellites, aircraft and ground platforms. The field campaign, which began in mid-September, will extend through most of October. In addition to satellite surveillance, NASA's DC-8 "flying laboratory" from the Ames Research Center, Mountain View, Calif., will participate. The Space Shuttle Endeavour, on its September mission, photographed African and South American smoke palls to provide new visual perspective on the nature of the emissions.

The South American iinvestigation is a joint effort between the space agencies of the United States and Brazil. Satellites, specially instrumented Brazilian aircraft, the NASA DC-8 and balloon-borne sampling platforms will be used to address the source areas in central Brazil and track the long-range distribution of gases as they move into the southern tropical Atlantic. - more -2The African portion of the experiment is a collaboration of European, African and North American scientists to investigate fires in savanna (grassland containing scattered trees and undergrowth) in southern Africa, movement of fires across that continent and the relationship between fires, savanna ecology and atmospheric chemistry. Measurements from ground, tower, balloon and airborne platforms will be integrated with data from the Brazilian investigation and with satellite observations. Scientists in both projects acknowledge that the movements and chemical mechanisms of this ozone anomaly are extremely complex and that explanations up to this point have been speculative. These new investigations will be the first to provide concrete insights on the global impact of tropical biomass burning. Some scientists believe the effects of emissions from the biomass burning on the atmosphere's chemistry are comparable to those from fossil fuels in the northern latitudes. The emissions from the burning undoubtedly have some effect on the Earth's climatic balance, but whether this could lead to net warming or cooling is still open to speculation. Scientists should get a better understanding of the processes involved in these mechanisms when the data are analyzed and interpreted. - end -