AOSC graduate student Clare Flynn recently returned from 2 weeks in Houston, Texas as part of NASA’s third DISCOVER-AQ field campaign. DISCOVER-AQ (Deriving Information on Surface conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality) is a five year project aimed at improving and validating observations of tropospheric air pollutants from space using various ground and and airborne observations. As NASA strives to more completely observe our home planet from space, it must tackle challenges such as differentiating between pollution in the upper troposphere and that near the surface – a difficult task for satellites. Utilizing carefully planned field campaigns like the one just completed in Houston, scientists will be able to improve current satellite measurements of surface air pollution, and ultimately improve air quality forecasts and identify pollution sources.
As part of this year’s campaign, Clare and her advisor, Dr. Ken Pickering, worked as part of the team charged with forecasting conditions at local ground stations and for research flights involving NASA’s P-3B and King Air aircraft. One of their primary objectives was to provide scientists with information on local cloud cover, which prevents satellites from observing surface variables critical to the campaign goals.
Clare also got to visit some of the ground stations near Houston that measured surface air properties such as O3, NO2, PM2.5, and general meteorological conditions using a suite of instruments, including LIDAR in some cases. Of the overall experience, Clare said “it was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. It was especially great to meet people working on these topics and make connections with people in the field. It was interesting to see how the instruments work compared with the models.”