July 26, 2004

International study will examine movement, change of air pollutants across eastern N America

About 40 Canadian scientists are among more than 500 researchers from five countries participating in a major international study on the movement of air pollution. The two-month study, which got under way last week, is being carried out by the International Consortium for Atmospheric Research on Transport and Transformation (ICARTT). Its goal is to improve understanding of how air pollutants move and change as they travel over eastern North America and the North Atlantic Ocean, and how these pollutants affect climate and air quality.

In addition to measurements taken from the ground, several Canadian, American, and European aircraft, as well as an American ship will collect data between North America and Western Europe. Between July 19 and August 20, scientists with Environment Canada's Meteorological Service (MSC) will participate in two airborne field studies using a Convair 580 aircraft from the National Research Council of Canada's Institute for Aerospace Research, Canada's national aerospace laboratory. They hope the research will help improve forecasting of air quality and weather, and provide a better understanding of the effects of air pollution on Canada's climate.

In the first study, the Convair 580 will fly from an airport in Cleveland, Ohio, as the researchers collect data on pollution and clouds at different altitudes over a large area around Cleveland, including Detroit, Windsor, and Sarnia. In the second study, the Convair 580 will fly over the Atlantic provinces during episodes of a pollution build-up to collect data along the Maine-New Brunswick border across to the south tip of Nova Scotia, over Saint John, New Brunswick, and along the Northumberland Strait. The movement of pollution from Ontario, Quebec and the northeastern U.S. can be a major source of pollution in the Atlantic region.

The transboundary nature of air pollution makes international collaboration on air quality research extremely important. In order to better understand air quality, scientists need to determine how air pollutants travel across the continent, and how their chemical composition changes as they move. Ultimately, this study will provide Environment Canada with a more solid scientific basis to address air pollution and its effects on human and environmental health.

More information about the ICARTT is available from Denis Simard at Environment Canada, 819/994-7499, E-mail denis.simard@ec.gc.ca, or on-line at www.msc-smc.ec.gc.ca/research/icartt/index_e.html.

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