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Regional air proves advantageous for visiting scientists

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by Adam Harder, for KUAM News

Guam - It isn't often we think about what's in the air we breathe, but history is being made. Meteorologists in Guam are making history over the next few weeks as aircraft from three different organizations gather samples from the air above our island. Customized aircraft from the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the UK Cast Project are working together in a three tiered experiment, which has never been conducted in this region of the world.

The state-of-the-art laboratories in these aircraft provide real-time answers as to what kinds of chemicals that both the ocean, and humans, are creating in the air we breathe.

Allison Rockwell with the NSF told KUAM News, "They're really looking at how these chemicals are interacting with one another, how they're affecting the atmosphere as far as global climate change, and how they're making environmental changes to the stratosphere and to the troposphere."

Micronesia provides these meteorologists with some of the cleanest air in the world for them to study. While stratosphere samples are gathered at 55,000 feet by NASA's Global Hawks, the NSF and UK Cast Project aircraft gather emission samples closer to the ground. Together, these teams are beginning to understand just how clean - or not clean - our air really is.

UK Cast Project's Neil Harris said, "The bit that we really don't understand is that in the very clean air to the east of here is exactly how clean is it and what are the emotions from the open ocean. When we get back home and we start interpreting the data, that's one of the major questions we look at."

The vast findings from this experiment will be interpreted and studied over the next 10 years. And in the ongoing struggle to combat climate change and global warming, the information from this experiment will become a major contribution.

Rockwell added, "Hopefully they'll be able to put together a better piece of the climate change puzzle so this is really just a piece of the puzzle that we can add to climate models and also build more policies around global climate change, putting mitigation on that."

The meteorologists involved will remain in Guam, putting the finishing touches on their research for the remainder of the month. 

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