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Spotlight

Work begins to establish a baseline carbon budget for U.S. coastlines 

Thompson Creek MDNajjar, Herrmann, Fuentes

Thompson Creek, Maryland. Image: Photo by Jonathan Kellogg, Integration and Application Network; University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. By Amanda Jacobson Snyder,May 4, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Determining whether estuaries and tidal wetlands are net emitters or absorbers of carbon dioxide is the object of a NASA-funded study by a national team of researchers. The three-year, $1.2-million study, led by Penn State professor of oceanography Raymond Najjaris the first to look at the entire contiguous U.S. estuarine and tidal-wetland system, and the team will establish a long-term, baseline carbon budget over the past several decades -- the period for which most coastal carbon data have been collected.

The Wetland-Estuary Transports and CARbon Budgets (WETCARB) study encompasses 139 of the estuarine-wetland systems delineated and catalogued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which account for more than 90 percent of estuarine surface area within the contiguous United States.

Full story: Work begins to establish a baseline carbon budget for U.S. coastlines

Student meteorologist tackles challenge of predicting Philadelphia’s ozone pollution

Lexie Herdt 2015 AMS

Lexie Herdt presented her research at the 2015 AMS conference, where she received a second place prize for undergraduate student research poster. (Image courtesy of Herdt)

It's a complex interplay of emissions and meteorology that's difficult to get right. But one Penn State undergrad has stepped up to help make Philadelphia's forecasts more accurate.

Ozone forms when other pollutants — expelled from cars or power plants, for example — react in sunlight. It's hazardous to breathe in, so forecasters try to figure out when levels will be high so they can issue an orange or red code, and warn people to stay inside.

"Since about the early 2000s, nitrogen oxides and other pollutants have been steadily decreasing in our part of the country," said Amy Huff, an air quality meteorologist at Penn State University.

That's good news, of course. But it's also meant that the statistical models developed to predict ozone no longer work. The team completely abandoned them in 2011 because they failed so miserably.

Full story - Student Meteorologist