19 June, 2000
Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon?
When you fly into Camp Summit, your attention is immediately drawn to two flying objects hanging in the sky. These objects are part of an experiment that Dr. Don David (University of Colorado-Boulder, CIRES- Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences) and Jim Boulter, an atmospheric chemistry graduate student at CU, are conducting. The objects I refer to are a red and white balloon and a blue and white blimp. Although most of the research being conducted at Summit involves snow-air interaction, Don and Jim are concentrating their research in profiling the atmosphere for tropospheric ozone.
Ozone comes in the form O3. When it is located in the stratosphere, it protects the Earth from incoming ultraviolet radiation. Ultraviolet radiation in large doses can cause skin cancer. The ozone hole found in Antarctica is a result of the breakdown of CFC- chlorofluorocarbons. The ozone that Don and Jim are studying is the tropospheric ozone. This type of ozone is normally caused by pollution due to emissions from factories and automobiles.
Why Greenland then? There is no pollution generated from the people who live here and the closest factory is on the east coast of North America. Greenland is the most pristine place on Earth. From previous studies conducted on the Greenland ice cap, ozone concentrations vary with altitude. The closer to the snow, the less ozone is present. It appears that ozone is eaten by the snow. The purpose of Don and Jim's research is to profile the lower troposphere to determine the incidence of ozone. Concentrations in Greenland are very high at 40-60 parts per billion (ppb). In urban areas, ozone pollution alerts start at 100 ppb. To determine if ozone travels from North America, a carbon monoxide (CO) tracer is used to detect the presence of CO. If there is little CO present, then the chances that O3 is from pollution are very slim. If there is a lot of CO present, then it appears that O is from a pollutant source.
The balloons are used to carry the O3 detection equipment to heights up to 1 km (.6 mi). The balloon is tethered so not to fly away. It is 18 feet across filled with approximately 2.5 cylinders of helium. The balloon is pulled back to Earth by a winch. The instruments are attached to the tether and floated up into the atmosphere. There are weather instruments and ozone monitors that produce an atmospheric profile. The data is collected and analyzed upon return to Earth. It was really fun working with Don and Jim. They are enthusiastic about their research and really have fun doing it. I enjoyed myself tremendously working with them.
Barry: The answer is 0. You need acceleration and I'm sitting still.
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