News / Science & Technology

Balloons Launched Across US to Study Ozone

Weather Balloon Takes Flighti
X
August 30, 2013 3:46 PM
Gary Morris, lead trainer for the NASA ozone balloon project, and the Saint Louis University team launch the weather balloon at the Saint Louis planetarium.
There’s something unusual going on in the skies over St. Louis in the U.S. Midwestern state of Missouri. Students at Saint Louis University are launching weather balloons as part of a nationwide study funded by the U.S. space agency NASA, aimed at improving our understanding of air pollution and global climate.

A small group of Saint Louis University students are huddled around a laptop and radio receiver set up outside the Saint Louis Science Center planetarium. They’re getting ready to participate in the NASA mission to measure ozone ― a gas that both protects and pollutes the planet.

Inside a small Styrofoam box are a GPS, and two little instruments that measure temperature, humidity, air pressure and ozone. A transmitter in the box broadcasts the data to a 2-meter-tall antenna connected to that beeping radio receiver. From there, an old-school modem translates the audio signal into ones and zeroes that the laptop converts into air quality measurements.

Once the students have checked that all the equipment is working, the next step is to attach the Styrofoam box with its instruments to a weather balloon that will carry everything up into the atmosphere.

Once it is filled the helium, the balloon is 2 to 3 meters in diameter. The goal is to give it enough lift to carry its cargo up about 30 kilometers into the stratosphere. That’s around three times as high as commercial jets fly.

Gary Morris, a professor at Valparaiso University in Indiana and the lead trainer for the NASA ozone balloon project, is overseeing the launch. St. Louis is one of seven sites, from Colorado to Florida, involved in the nationwide study. Morris says NASA wants to get more data on ozone because of the important roles it plays in our atmosphere ― both good and bad.

High up in the stratosphere, the ozone layer absorbs sunlight and keeps harmful ultraviolet radiation from reaching the earth.

But down near the ground, emissions from sources like petrochemical plants and cars can form ozone pollution and smog, which can exacerbate respiratory problems like asthma.

“It’s especially difficult on children who are still developing," Morris said. "So children who grow up in areas that are chronically exposed to high levels of ozone have more frequent rates of asthma.”

Saint Louis University’s ozone study is being led by Jack Fishman, who worked for NASA for more than 30 years, studying air pollution and atmospheric chemistry.

He says while regulations have led to lower ozone pollution in urban areas of the U.S., ozone levels outside of cities have continued to rise.

“A lot of it has to do with the increased anthropogenic activity, industrial activity in eastern Asia,” Fishman said.

He says that’s because pollution is being blown across the Pacific by global air currents in the upper atmosphere.

"So we’ve crossed the threshold of increasing ozone concentrations whereby we actually see enough ozone, in the atmosphere, that crop growth is inhibited, forest growth is being impeded.”

In 2010, Fishman published a study showing that ozone damage to the U.S. soybean crop alone may cost farmers hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

And he says that, like carbon dioxide, ozone absorbs heat and affects climate.

“So this project is trying to understand the complexity of the chemistry and the clouds and other processes, meteorological processes, that impact local meteorology," Fishman said, "which in turn form the big picture of climate…and in turn climate change.”

Back at the Saint Louis Science Center, the balloon and its payload swoop upwards. Saint Louis University senior William Iwasko is one of four undergraduates on the launch team. He says launching the weather balloons by the planetarium, in a public park, gives kids who come by a chance to see science in action.

“And it helps to build their excitement for science and especially meteorology, so we hope we’re developing little meteorologists here,” Iwasko said.

Zack Crawford, 7, says when he grows up, he wants to be…a fireman. But the balloon launch definitely made an impression.

“That was amazing," Zack said. "It’s so high that I can’t even see it.”

The ozone balloon project runs through the end of September.

You May Like

Video Protests Continue in Ferguson, Spread to Other US Cities

Missouri officials say deployment of more than 2,000 National Guard soldiers helps curb second night of rampant arson and looting in Midwestern town More

Video Ebola, Crackdown on Illegals Hit Business in Guangzhou

Chinese city has largest community of Africans in Asia More

Video Legendary Lebanese Actress, Singer Sabah Dies at 87

Music and film diva, affectionately called 'Sabbouha' by millions of her fans, performed at Carnegie Hall in New York, Royal Albert Hall in London, Olympia in Paris, Sydney Opera House in Sydney More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid