- DAVIS, Calif. (AScribe News)
- University of California, Davis researchers will report today that rising
industrialization in Asia is discharging millions of tons of previously
undetected contaminants annually into the winds that travel across the
Pacific Ocean. These aerosols make people sick and destroy crops in Asia,
may be polluting American waters and could dramatically change global climate.
- Besides releasing these first results of the University
of California Pacific Rim Aerosol Network, the researchers will also describe
their role in the forthcoming ACE-Asia project. ACE-Asia, for Aerosol
Characterization Experiment, will be the world's largest attempt to identify
the exact sources and destinations of those tiny particles of dust, sulfate
and organic matter. This information does not exist for much of Asia and
is badly needed by scientists trying to generate reliable predictions of
global climate change.
- "Previous research has shown that every spring there
are massive dust storms in Asia that transport soil eastward to Japan and
across the Pacific to the United States. Now we've found that sulfate and
organic aerosols are also present, and in roughly the same amounts,"
said Thomas Cahill, a UC Davis professor emeritus of physics and atmospheric
science and an international authority on the atmospheric transport of
- "That is very important for several reasons. First,
the northern Pacific Ocean is one of the last really clean areas of the
Northern Hemisphere. If we start to pollute the air above that ocean, we'll
change the balance of heating and cooling of the ocean and that will produce
changes in the weather."
- "Second, there are increasing numbers of reports
of what appear to be toxic Asian pollutants in the lakes and streams of
- "Finally, and perhaps most important, there is an
established link between aerosol levels and rates of illness and death
in people. Working with our Asian colleagues, we hope to help them efficiently
address the causes of these aerosols and aid in developing mitigation.
The findings may prompt Asian policy-makers to restructure developmental
mandates to take into account the devastating air-quality problem they
have," Cahill said.
- Cahill and his research collaborators will present their
data today at the First International Conference on Trans-Pacific Transport
of Atmospheric Contaminants, which runs Thursday through Saturday at the
Aljoya Conference Center in Seattle, Wash. The UC Davis researchers are
Cahill; Peter Kelly, an associate professor of chemistry; Steven Cliff,
a postdoctoral research scientist; and Michael Jimenez-Cruz, manager of
the DELTA group laboratory, all of whom who comprise UC Davis' DELTA research
group (for Detection and Evaluation of Long-Range Transport of Aerosols).
They are joined by Tony VanCuren, a research scientist for the California
Air Resources Board; and Kevin Perry, a professor of meteorology at San
Jose State University.
- Asia is the largest source of aerosols in the world,
Cahill said. That's largely because the region burns millions of tons of
coal annually from its abundant coal deposits. Aerosols are released from
coal-burning power plants and coal-fired locomotives; heavy industry, such
as metals production; automobile and truck exhaust; home heating; and the
overtilling of dry-area farmland.
- While releases of one key type of aerosol, sulfur dioxide,
have been decreasing in the United States and Europe since tough air-pollution
rules were enacted, the releases are increasing in Asia, particularly in
China, Cahill said. Between 1990 and 2000, annual releases of sulfur dioxide
into the atmosphere in the United States dropped from about 20 million
tons to 13 tons, but in China they have climbed to about 45 million tons.
- Once released into the air, aerosols ride the wind over
land and sea, rising to altitudes of several miles, where their travel
is sped by the dry atmosphere and swift winds. Wherever they go, they retain
a unique signature of their origins in their composition of trace elements,
such as nickel, copper, zinc, arsenic and lead. Aerosols with these unique
signatures from Asia have been detected all the way to the U.S. Rocky Mountains,
- The new data are the first results of a research project
named the University of California Pacific Rim Aerosol Network, which was
started in 1998 with $67,000 from the university system. Cahill said he
expects he findings to suggest more Asian impacts at this week's invitation-only
conference, which will be attended by about 100 experts.
- Cahill will also describe the network's planned role
in the large, multimillion-dollar ACE-Asia international research program.
In ACE-Asia, the existing air samplers and some additions will gather data
for six weeks in spring 2001. New samplers will be installed at sites in
five Asian countries (China, Taiwan, the Philippines, South Korea and Japan),
Mexico and the United States.
- The heart of the network is the newly designed International
Aerosol Sampler, which was designed and built at UC Davis. It is inexpensive,
lightweight and low-tech for producing reliable data in undeveloped regions
with unreliable power supplies. It collects air samples that can be chemically
checked for unique signatures and tracked as they move around the globe.
This method of developing chemical signatures has been put to intensive
use at UC Davis since the early 1970s, when Cahill and colleagues were
conducting the first studies to identify the origins of view-blocking haze
in U.S. national parks.
- Those land-based machines will collect data in synchronization
with aerosol detectors aboard ships, airplanes and satellites, Cahill said.
The U.S. National Science Foundation has granted UC Davis $350,000 over
three years for its part of the ACE-Asia project.
- After the ACE-Asia work concludes, the UC network will
continue to deliver critical information, Cahill said. "The relationship
between a smelter in Manchuria and aerosol pollution in Japan is not obvious.
That's the understanding we're trying to achieve," he said. _____
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