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Texas air pollution study gets help from the Hurricane Hunters

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:52 PM GMT on May 19, 2006

Houston and Los Angeles rank as the two most polluted or cities in the U.S. To address the problem in Houston, a series of air pollution field studies have been run over the past decade in Texas to help understand the what is going on, and come up with the best emission control strategies needed to reduce ozone pollution levels. The TexAQS II Air Quality Field Study is that latest effort to do so. The field study, slated to run through September of this year, will take a broad number of surface based and airborne air pollution and meteorology measurements. A key tool in the study is one of NOAA's P-3 weather research aircraft, which will be specially outfitted as a state-of-the-art air pollution sampling platform. I flew on the NOAA P-3s in a number of such air pollution field studies during my stint with the hurricane hunters. My most memorable project came in 1989, when we flew over the Arctic Ice Cap to track "Arctic Haze". It was unbelievable to be flying over what should have been one of the cleanest places in the world, only to find visibility reduced to three miles in thick haze, due to pollution blown over the North Pole from industrial sources in Eastern Europe.

Figure 1. Areas of the U.S. in violation of the EPA standards for ozone pollution.

The data collected in the Texas study will be used to develop a variety of computer models needed to understand what is going on, and thereby recommend pollution control strategies. Ozone is not emitted directly, but is formed in a very complicated way from the "precursor" pollutants, Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). It turns out that this formation process is extremely non-linear--which means that in some cases, reducing emissions of one of the "precursor" pollutants will actually increase ozone. As a result, you really have to understand the problem thoroughly before going to the expense of implementing emission controls of NOx or VOC in an effort to reduce ozone pollution.

Computer modeling efforts to understand pollution are of limited help, because we don't have a very good idea about how much pollution is being emitted. Each year, businesses are required to submit estimates of how much pollution they are emitting. These emission estimates, however, are not very accurate. For example, according to a story published May 7 in the Houston Chronicle, a British Petroleum refinery in Texas City (just south of Houston) reported that it emitted three times more formaldehyde and ammonia in 2004 than in 2003. The increase in emissions at this one plant was so large, that it distorted the data for refineries nationwide, according to the EPA. The Texas City plant accounted for the bulk of a 15 percent increase in emissions in 2004 that drove refinery pollution to its worst level since 2000. The problem is that the company likely underestimated its 2003 emissions. The emission estimates are all theoretical, and are not based on actual measurements of pollutant gases coming out of the stacks.

The article quotes Matt Fraser, an associate professor in civil and environmental engineering at Rice University, who says: "It's incredible that they were that far off. That's a huge increase in formaldehyde. It just shows you how little attention is being paid to getting emissions numbers right. And since all of our air-quality control strategies are based on that data, it makes you wonder." Well, the planners of the TexAQS II Air Quality Field Study are also wondering, which is why there is the necessity of doing this field study. The only sure way to know what's really going up into the air is to go out and measure it, and this summer's study should help the scientists and regulators figure out what the right steps are to control air pollution in one of our most polluted cities.

Unfortunately, the participation of NOAA's P-3 in the Texas study means that only one P-3 will be available for hurricane hunting this hurricane season. This worries me, because the P-3s are the best tool we have for hurricane reconnaissance. The Air Force C-130s do not have the state-of-the-art radar systems like the P-3s carry, nor the new SFMR Stepped Frequency Microwave Radiometer instrument that can measure surface winds speeds anywhere in a storm. Will participation of the P-3 in this air pollution study save more lives and property than if the aircraft participated in hurricane hunting this Fall? I think that is probably the case, but it is definitely a gamble that I'm uncomfortable with.

Jeff Masters

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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461. ScienceCop
8:15 AM GMT on May 22, 2006

Posted By: Califonia at 4:08 AM GMT on May 21, 2006.
Posted By: ScienceCop at 3:08 AM GMT on May 21, 2006.
Posted By: ForecasterColby at 10:16 PM GMT on May 19, 2006.
ForecasterColby: CO2 has been many times higher at previous points in earth's history. Guess what? The planet is still here. Life adapted. And it will again. If you want to talk climate change, we're actually in almost the COOLEST time in Earth's history.

ScienceCop: A due diligent search for CO2 levels going back 600,000 years is unable to find any global levels higher than today...


Califonia: I'm sure some of you guessed this might be coming, in response to the referenced post - heheheheh.

The rightside bar, in your unreferenced chart, is olive color and covers 65,000,000 years. 600,000 years recorded in Ice Cores is 1/100th of that bar, a sliver of one pixel wide. For this one pixel-wide segment of time we have actual samples of air frozen in deep ice which has been carefully drilled out of the Antarctic Ice Pack. I am unaware of sealed stored atmosphereic samples which go back further. Anybody can draw a chart and put lines on it. Who knows who drew this chart and what they used to plot their lines?

Perhaps you can explain how this data came to be on the chart?

65,000,000 years ago a large object smacked near Yucatan, now called the Alveraz Asteroid. It extinguished the dinosaurs and 90% of all living beings on lands. More than 50% of all species went down because of that day. All of the forests in North America were completely incinerated and sterilized, Forests burned on every continent. The amounts of CO2 produced exceed anything possible in natural events since that day. It was not at all peaches and cream for the survivers.

There are likely additional asteroid strike events which caused prior mass extinctions, but no specific impact craters have yet been identified for others. Certainly there were no eyewitnesses or instruments further back in time who could confirm any higher CO2 episodes. The further back one goes the more arguments there are between camps of experts.

It would take me a matter of minutes to create a bogus chart showing lower CO2 over the same time periods. Why should I not doubt that this is a bogus chart of absolutely no value? No link to source is provided to authenticate who made this chart. There are known science hoaxers, far worse than the Korean Stem Cell Fraudster, known to be producing false data and inserting it into Global Warming discussions, which is why the current standard for citizen behavior is to always attribute your sources so they can be checked.

The website this picture resides on is: http://net33.com/
The directory at http://net33.com/ where the image is stored is: http://net33.com/images/
The website is registered to:
http://net33.com = [ ]
Michael Ellis
Registered through: GoDaddy.com Inc. http://www.godaddy.com
Domain Name: NET33.COM
http://snipurl.com/qshm Your search - "Michael Ellis" NET33.COM - did not match any documents. = [ net33.com ]
OrgName: Netsonic
Address: PO Box 28283
City: Green Bay
StateProv: WI
PostalCode: 54304
Country: US
NetRange: -
RTechName: Simpson Adam L
http://snipurl.com/qshp Your search - "Adam L. Simpson" NET33.COM - did not match any documents.

This is hardly credible sources for scientific information. It has a distinctly fishy odor about it.

Regardless of the ultimate conclusion of CO2 present in the atmosphere in prior ages, the continents were not then where they are now. Pangea was still intact, which is why fossils of dinosaur relatives are found in China, Britain, US and South America. It was a very different world, optimized for giant lizards and giant insects. I doubt very much that you would have enjoyed living in that world.
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460. Skyepony (Mod)
4:42 AM GMT on May 22, 2006


I noticed the lower level shear has dropped. I just really look forward to FL getting some rain. The models have been all over with this one~ nogaps, canadian not even picking it up on the 12Z runs, 18Z gfs shows it briefly develop into a warm core before a quick demize by upper level shear while the rain heads toward LA to Nfl, the MRF looks interesting with Sfl getting all the heavier rain.
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459. ProgressivePulse
2:48 AM GMT on May 22, 2006
And as Alec said, it IS an Upper Level Low.
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458. ProgressivePulse
2:44 AM GMT on May 22, 2006
That low is intended to reach South and Central Florida on Tuesday. Look for shears to slack up, but no organization. Today was the start of transition from the dry to the rainey season in SFL. Look for SST's to jump in the coming weeks.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
457. Alec
10:14 PM EDT on May 21, 2006
bama, I believe the rotation is an upper level low(it has to reach the surface for there to be tropical development) Way too much shear in the Gulf but it will slacken some in the days to come.....Im off see ya guys later:)
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
456. bamaweatherwatcher
2:11 AM GMT on May 22, 2006
real quick.. i know it wont and cant devlope but that area of clouds in the gulf looks to be getting a little rotation in the last frames!! Link
look at about 24N and 95W.
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455. atmosweather
10:10 PM EDT on May 21, 2006
Have a great night Bamaww!
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454. Alec
10:07 PM EDT on May 21, 2006
bama, first it is normal for buoys to fluctuate around a mean temp...the highest occurs during the late afternoon(highest heat from sun) and the lowest very early in the morning(when sun hasn't been present to heat ocean) Also, there will also be pools of warm water that may actually cause a big shift(which happened in the Central Caribbean with a sudden 86.4 degree reading a few days ago)...hope that helps:)
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453. bamaweatherwatcher
2:07 AM GMT on May 22, 2006
thanks for the info atmos! well i learned a lot today some im off..yall kids have fun and stay out of trouble tonight!
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452. taco2me61
2:06 AM GMT on May 22, 2006
OK Everybody>>> Mobile will be taken over the Blog and now everybody watch out...LOL

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451. atmosweather
10:04 PM EDT on May 21, 2006
Near land masses, water is shallower, therefore, the temperature of the water rises and falls similar to the land mass (by quite a bit), and, shallower water changes temperature easier than deep water. Plus, seas in the Caribbean do not change more than 3-4 degrees throughout the entire year because they don't have a cool season.
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450. bamaweatherwatcher
1:57 AM GMT on May 22, 2006
I have a question. I just roamed around the bouys for water temps. In the caribbean and most of the gulf the water temps usually stay pretty consistant over the last 24 hours. but off of the coast of Florida, the water is cooler and flucuates over a 3 degree range throughout the day. Why is this? anybody?
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449. mobal
1:56 AM GMT on May 22, 2006
Bama, Im Shillingers / Cottage Hill area.

Welcome to WU. Got to go now, BBL...
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448. bamaweatherwatcher
1:53 AM GMT on May 22, 2006
over by USA
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447. mobal
1:51 AM GMT on May 22, 2006
Well wecome aboard Bama, What part of Mobile?
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446. bamaweatherwatcher
1:48 AM GMT on May 22, 2006
no we haven't blogged before. im new here...i've reading for a couple of weeks, but didn't start blogging until a couple of days ago.
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445. mobal
1:41 AM GMT on May 22, 2006
Sorry Bama, The NSA took my blog over....LOL.
Really though, I dont remember all that posted there..and we may even have blogged before but I sometimes forget in my old age....
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444. mobal
1:33 AM GMT on May 22, 2006
bama, louastu,
We all can choose where we live and take what nature puts our way. Hurricanes, Tornados, Floods....list goes on and on. I for one do not expect the govt' to help me. I know my area and prepare as such.
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443. bamaweatherwatcher
1:39 AM GMT on May 22, 2006
excuse my grammer plz
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442. bamaweatherwatcher
1:35 AM GMT on May 22, 2006

I posted my info on your blog like everyone else. You have your own weather station?! thats awsome, I hope to get a portable weather station one day that communicates wirelessly to a laptop.

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441. bamaweatherwatcher
1:24 AM GMT on May 22, 2006
that my thought as well louastu. I love this area but i understand hurricanes are something we have to deal with. And for the most part we should be on our own.
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440. Alec
9:26 PM EDT on May 21, 2006
Hey mobal....need to catch up with the weather(check SST's and such....)
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438. mobal
8:21 PM CDT on May 21, 2006
Well Hello Neighbor!
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437. Alec
9:14 PM EDT on May 21, 2006
yo, my internet decided to take a vacation today.......Haven't gotten it to work for like 9 hrs......was very hot today(had to walk to campus in the heat)......LOL
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436. louastu
1:07 AM GMT on May 22, 2006
That was a very good story bama.

I could not help but notice this little part of that article.

But for every person cashing out, there seems to be someone looking to buy, says Carolyn Jones, a deputy tax collector for Hancock County. Her own home just west of Bay St. Louis was swept away, but she's not selling.

"That's the Mississippi way," she says. "You just kind of suck it up and go on."

If government isn't making people move, it must prepare to protect them.

It seems to me that people rely far too much on the government. If the government was making people move, I imagine there would be many people who would be pretty ticked off.

When people decide to live in areas that are suceptible to disasters, they need to understand that they are placing themselves in a situation, where if disaster does occur, they could be isolated for some time, and need to be capable of fending for themselves.
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435. bamaweatherwatcher
1:15 AM GMT on May 22, 2006
from the looks of your name the same place as you. mobile
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434. mobal
8:13 PM CDT on May 21, 2006
Bama, Where in Bama are you?
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433. atmosweather
9:11 PM EDT on May 21, 2006
LOL I will be here all season long to help everyone. I will answer any question as best I can and I will always keep you updated on a threatening storm.
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432. bamaweatherwatcher
1:08 AM GMT on May 22, 2006
plus some of us are ingnorant (refering to myself) and need you smarter people to help us know what were talking about when people ask us about a storm!!!:)
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431. atmosweather
9:08 PM EDT on May 21, 2006
Hey SJ, I am thinking of what to with David. There are a number of things I have in mind but I haven't decided yet. They range from a long email to a court case.
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430. bamaweatherwatcher
1:05 AM GMT on May 22, 2006

who are you to come in here....just kidding:) I agree hurricanes are stressful enough without everybody arguing over things that happened in the past.
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428. atmosweather
8:52 PM EDT on May 21, 2006
Hey everyone,

Guys, stop the fighting please. How many times does this have to happen? Here are some suggestions (not commands) that may end this and return WU to a peaceful state (or a relatively peaceful state):

1. Cyclonebuster - don't mention your tunnels here again except in your own blog. If you want to tell someone how good they are, tell NOAA or a government-run construction agency. I am sure they will be glad to listen to your idea.

2. Colby - stop being so serious and lighten up. You just have to accept that Cyclonebuster hates you. Use your time and efforts for doing what you obviously do best: weather forecasting and discussion.

3. Louastu - mark posts as obscene and let that be the end of it. Don't continue to defend yourself or someone else. Nobody is right when they argue like you guys do.

4. Everyone else (and also applies to those above) - stop baiting others, stroking your own ego, dismissing everyone else's ideas, telling others to take medication, swearing, calling each other stupid, arguing for the sake of it, bringing up STORMTOP's failures/stupid posts/lucky guesses, accusing Tony of cycling, and making sarcastic comments.

You have got to stop. Period. Feel free to do whatever you want with this post but DO NOT attack me with a comment (if you have to, do it by email, I'll be glad to reply).
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427. bamaweatherwatcher
12:56 AM GMT on May 22, 2006
thanks chaser!!
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426. bamaweatherwatcher
12:41 AM GMT on May 22, 2006

This a good story on rebuilding after katrina in Mississippi. Also has some info on what other areas are doing in prep for hurricane season.

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425. louastu
12:48 AM GMT on May 22, 2006
Well, even if he doesn't find it useful, I at least have learned something.
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424. hurricanechaser
12:38 AM GMT on May 22, 2006
Hey Bama,

I just thought I would check back before I have to go and noticed your question and St. Simons is exactly right regarding development.:)

In regards to determing the steering currents for a particular storm, the general rule of what is known as Dynamical forecassting techniques which are typically the most accurate, the 500 mb level is the standard with possibly 700 mb for smaller and less intense storms.

Regardless, the 500 mb level is the best to use in this aspect of forecasting and is my personal favorite site for thast most important analysis regarding a storms future track.

I hope this is helpful.:)

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422. bamaweatherwatcher
12:30 AM GMT on May 22, 2006
thanks stsimons...got a good site for pressure maps?
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420. bamaweatherwatcher
12:25 AM GMT on May 22, 2006
This is a repeat of above. Still looking for a good answer or any help:)

Im trying to learn a little more about pressure maps and what you look for a tropical storm. Now I know you look for a low at the surface. I also know that usually for a healthy storm you need a high pressure above it. my question at level does this high form? What level is the best to look at (as in mb)?

also looking for a good a site that has pressure maps of the caribbean and tropical alantic on it. One without all the fancy computer enhancements, just the data. Any help?
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419. louastu
12:02 AM GMT on May 22, 2006
I would like to point out that I too have said things that I shouldn't. It is rare for me to say something inappropriate on this blog, but when I am reffing soccer games I have occasionally turned around and told the parents to "shutup".

This is obviously not helping the situation, but it is human nature to get mad, and say things which we regret (at least most people regret saying such things).

I certainly don't condemn you for your comments, but when I am not part of the problem, and feel that I can prevent a situation from escalating, I will always do what I can.
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417. louastu
11:54 PM GMT on May 21, 2006
No problem on the correction of your mistake (I personally enjoy jumping into things to try to prevent problems)

I personally have noticed an improvement over the past hour in this blog (i.e., little or no arguing), which can be partially attributed to the fact that you have decided to quit arguing.

I would say that this is a sign of improvement.
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416. hurricanechaser
11:52 PM GMT on May 21, 2006
Hey St. Simons,

I am impressed with your compassionate heart and desire to keep track of this information when too many of us like myself have unintentionally stopped keeping up by getting too caught up in our lives.

Furthermore, I personally appreciate you being so detailed and thorough in explaining the process in each state and reminding me just how truly devastating this storm has been.

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414. hurricanechaser
11:50 PM GMT on May 21, 2006
Hey Louastu,

I completely agree and it is so easy to say yet so hard to do with certain individuals, but I am improving or at least I hope I am.:)

Regardless, thanks for the correction and reminder for it is greatly respected.:)
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412. hurricanechaser
11:46 PM GMT on May 21, 2006
Hey St. Simons,

Thanks for sharing that with me and that deeply saddens me for I honestly had thought it would not exceed 1500 and now could even reach 3,000.

One death is too many and just think of how many loved ones and friends are grieving our just one lost life...it truuly is incomprehensible to me to contemplate how many lives that unbelievable number of fatalities affect.

That doesn't even account for all those now homeless and displaced and how many are directly and indirectly affected by that tragedy as well.

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