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October 28, 1991 (Phone: 202/453-1547) Diane Farrar Ames Research Center, Mountain View, Calif. (Phone: 415/604-3934) RELEASE: 91-178 AIRBORNE STUDY OF ARCTIC OZONE BEGUN NASA and other institutions have begun a 6-month airborne study to determine the probability that an ozone "hole," similar to the annual phenomenon seen in the Antarctic, will develop in the Northern Hemisphere. "We want to know, based on the increasing levels of chlorine in the Northern Hemisphere's stratosphere, if there will be an ozone hole over the North Pole in the next 10 or 20 years," said Jim Anderson, a professor at Harvard University and the project scientist for the Airborne Arctic Stratospheric Expedition II (AASE II). "We also want to understand the cause of lower levels of ozone observed by satellites as far south as the southern United States." AASE II involves two NASA aircraft and 120 scientists from NASA, the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the following universities: Harvard University, the University of Colorado, Pennsylvania State University, the University of California-Irvine, the University of Washington and the University of Denver. The program is funded by NASA, NOAA, the National Science Foundation and an industry group, the Alternative Fluorocarbon Environmental Acceptability Study. The first Arctic stratospheric study, conducted from Stavanger, Norway, in February 1989, found that the northern polar region contains extremely high levels of reactive chlorine, low levels of reactive nitrogen and evidence of ozone loss. The results of that study were fundamental to the most recent United Nations International Scientific Ozone Trends Assessment. That assessment found depletion of ozone over the Northern Hemisphere's mid-latitudes in the spring and summer. A separate satellite study showed a surprising 8 percent decrease in total ozone across the northern U.S. and Europe (40 degrees north latitude) over the last decade. - more AASE II Project Manager Estelle Condon, Ames Research Center, Mountain View, Calif., said two aircraft from Ames will conduct the atmospheric experiments. The planes, an ER-2 high altitude
research aircraft and a DC-8 flying laboratory, will fly more than 50 missions to support AASE II requirements. Ames' high altitude ER-2 flew the first of its planned 30 missions from Fairbanks, Alaska, on Oct. 7. Flying above 65,000 feet, the single-seat aircraft carries 14 experiments to directly measure ozone, chlorine, reactive nitrogen, particulates and other gases which might be deleterious to the ozone shield. On Nov. 4, the ER-2 will be based out of Bangor, Maine, and will be based there periodically through March 1992 for AASE II flights. The objective of the ER-2 flights is to directly and simultaneously measure related variables to diagnose the causes of ozone depletion. The other aircraft, the Ames' DC-8 flying laboratory, will carry 26 scientists and 13 experiments on longer-range routes bounded by Alaska, the North Pole, Norway, Iceland and Maine. The DC-8 will be based at Anchorage, Stavanger, and Bangor. The DC-8 will begin its series of more than 20 missions on Nov. 18. It will survey broad geographic regions with advanced lidar and remote-sensing technology. The DC-8's longer range will provide a broader picture of chemistry and weather patterns above 30,000 feet to complement the ER-2's detailed information at the higher ozone shield altitude. Flights will occur, Condon said, during the entire winter-to-spring lifetime of the winter polar vortex. The vortex is a circular wind pattern that isolates air above the poles. Within the vortex, air temperatures become extremely cold. Scientists want to know what happens in the atmosphere before the vortex spins up, while it is in place and after it breaks down. Current understanding holds that the winter wind patterns isolate the polar stratospheric air, allowing reactive chlorine to destroy ozone. The low winter temperatures allow the formation of frozen particles, which provide surfaces for chemical reactions that convert chlorine to a form that rapidly attacks ozone, Condon said. Recent observations, however, show ozone depletion occurring before and after the expected polar seasonal effects and extending into lower-than-expected latitudes, according to Dr. Brian Toon, Ames DC-8 Flight Scientist for the missions. "We want to know why ozone loss is occurring at highly populated mid-northern latitudes and why it is extending into spring and summer when more people will be exposed to ultraviolet sunlight," Toon said. Separating ozone-depletion caused by chemistry from that caused by atmospheric dynamics is a major goal of this expedition. "We want to know if the mid-latitude ozone loss is spun off from the ozone-depleted polar air or if it is a separate process," Toon added. - more AASE II flights also will investigate the potential effects of subsonic and anticipated fleets of supersonic aircraft on stratospheric ozone depletion. The DC-8 will fly across the
exhaust corridors of subsonic jet aircraft as it returns from Maine to California at the end of each "mini-mission." The ER-2 also may attempt sampling missions in the Concorde's air corridors off the coast of Newfoundland. The DC-8 also will fly from Ames to the Equator and back during an early November check-out flight to study the effects of the Mount Pinatubo volcanic cloud on ozone depletion. The volcano's eruption of sulfuric acid droplets may, like the polar stratospheric clouds, provide surfaces for ozone depleting chemistry, Toon said. The first results from AASE II will be available next spring. The final report is expected later in 1992. - end NOTE TO EDITORS/NEWS DIRECTORS: Still photographs and video are available to accompany this release and may be obtained by calling the NASA Ames Public Information Office, (415) 604-9000.