Seed Grant: Atmospheric Chemistry in the Ohio River Basin


We are developing new methods for estimating atmospheric concentrations of trace gases (as well as corresponding uncertainty measures) using data obtained from differential optical absorption spectroscopy, a long-path spectroscopic technique that uses the sun as the light source. A prototype of this method is currently being implemented and tested in the R statistical computing environment by Profs. Calder and Herbei.

For two weeks in each of the months of June, July, August, and September of 2008, a Multi-Axis Differential Optical Absorption Spectrometer was used to collected scattered solar radiation spectra in the Upper Ohio River Valley near the city of Wheeling, West Virginia. The atmospheric chemistry of this region of the Ohio River Basin is strongly influenced by the emissions of coal-burning electric power plants and the refinement of asphalt products and aluminum ores. In addition to industrial influences, this region of the Ohio River Basin has large tracts of woodlands interspersed with small, typically family-owned beef-cattle farms. Therefore, the atmospheric chemistry of this region is expected to be a unique combination of industrial, natual, and agricultural landscape features. The data collected during this field campaign is currently being analyzed to determine the vertical distributions of atmospheric aerosols as well as several trace gases important to understanding the impact of human activity on atmospheric chemistry. These species include formaldehyde and SO2, key indicators of atmospheric oxidation and aerosol production.

This research will serve to advance the use of ground based remote sensing measurements in understanding regional variations in climate forcing aerosols, most specifically in areas where the use of conventional measurements of atmospheric sounding, such as balloon-borne instruments, are not feasible.

Project Status

Two papers are currently being written. Measurements of trace gases for selected areas within the Ohio River Basin and Columbus have been obtained. We have finished the field campaign to obtain trace gas concentration across the Ohio River Basin.


Heather Allen
Department of Chemistry
College of Math and Physical Sciences