2020 has presented Air Sciences with many opportunities for retooling. As a small business, we quickly enacted a work-from-home policy with some routines to keep everyone healthy but also balanced. Daily facetime through all-company meetings and even some virtual happy hours have kept our close-knit teams connected and thriving. The small blessings of this newfound flexibility (and home-cooked lunches) are quickly displaced, however, by the anxiety we all feel around the ongoing turmoil in economic and public health arenas.
Dust from wind traveling across open land areas is a common phenomenon on all continents of the world. Whether a tilled field or a geographic feature like a dry lakebed, these areas can emit dust that impacts public respiratory health. Knowing the potential for adverse health effects is difficult to quantify. Varying surface conditions, weather, and rates of emission are inherent to this challenge. Read more
Wildfires are growing in intensity and frequency as the climate changes, draining resources for firefighting often early in the season. Traditional methods of fire towers or satellite imaging are not effective until fires are of substantial size. Air Sciences intern Mikhail Mayers, a computer engineering student at Portland State University, is working with some other students to detect smaller fires sooner. Read more
North American playas are large dust emitters. Dotting the deserts of the Southwestern United States, these dry lake beds are highly saline from the concentration of salts following evaporation. These salt deposits can become entrained in the air when winds scour the dried lakebed. The resulting saline dust has a high fraction of halogenated compounds, primarily those containing chlorine. When the chlorine-containing aerosols (the dust that remains suspended in the atmosphere) mix with nitrogen oxides (primarily dinitrogen pentoxide), a gas called nitryl chloride (ClNO2) is produced. Sunlight interacts with ClNO2, breaking it apart into chlorine radicals that participate in the formation of tropospheric ozone.