ACOM in the News

Tuesday, September 22, 2020 - 1:55pm
Wildfire smoke over the central United States on September 13, 2020. Photo by Carl Drews.

ACOM scientists Rebecca Hornbrook and Rebecca Buchholz contributed to a Wired article about wildfire smoke:


Wednesday, September 2, 2020 - 8:21am
Janyl Madykova 2020, Figure 1.

Janyl Madykova is from Kyrgyzstan and came to the USA in 2018 as a Fulbright Scholar. In summer 2020 she virtually visited NCAR under a Muskie Internship Program collaborating with ACOM on exploring air quality in Central Asia. Air pollution is a major societal and environmental threat that is occurring in many places across the world, yet the Central Asian region is significantly understudied. Read more at ACOM Research Highlights . . .


Saturday, August 15, 2020 - 6:25pm
Sunset from Lafayette, Colorado, on August 14, 2020. Photo by Carl Drews.

Smoke from several wildfires has been hazing up the Front Range, along with the usual summer ozone. ACOM Scientist Gabriele Pfister studies air quality for the National Center for Atmospheric Research and says both the smoke particles and the ozone have short term and long-term health impacts, mainly to the respiratory system.


Tuesday, July 7, 2020 - 8:56am
Denver Downtown view from Red Rock Amphitheatre, by Mitul0520 at Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Denver_Downtown_view_from_Red_Rock_Amphitheatre.jpg

Three months of less driving won’t fix Colorado’s air quality woes. ACOM scientist Frank Flocke knew air pollution was increasing at the end of May [2020] just by listening. He could hear a growing number of cars speeding down the busy Foothills Parkway from his home office in Boulder.


Friday, May 15, 2020 - 1:18pm
 Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

“We have seen a decrease in air pollution on short time frames,” says atmospheric scientist Helen Worden of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.  In one unpublished result since the pandemic began, Worden and colleagues found that, in a corridor between Wuhan and Beijing, peak values of CO were down by 30–45% following Chinese New Year this year compared with the same period in 2019.


Thursday, April 23, 2020 - 8:19am

ACOM Deputy Director Gabi Pfister spoke with Jamie Yuccas about blue skies and clean air in Los Angeles during the coronavirus lockdown. If all passenger cars were to be taken off the road, what would happen to our air quality? The COVID-19 health crisis has shown us that there are ways we can make significant change in the human footprint on our atmosphere and on nature. Gabi's segment begins at time 3:00.


Tuesday, March 31, 2020 - 3:22pm
View from Te Atatu Road motorway overbridge, during COVID-19 lockdown in Auckland, New Zealand. Image by Megan Harvey at Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Empty_northwestern_motorway_during_coronavirus_lockdown.jpg

The COVID-19 health crisis is obviously a terrible situation, with more than 34,000 deaths worldwide as of March 30, 2020. And experts say that the real impact to climate change is what we take away from the pandemic—the choices we make in our recovery. It does, however, provide scientists some insight as to what happens to our atmosphere when our lifestyles and economy undergo major change. “It’s an unwanted atmospheric experiment,” says Helen Worden, an atmospheric scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).


Monday, March 2, 2020 - 11:38am
BBC CrowdScience: What’s the weirdest weather? February 28, 2020

NCAR/ACOM scientist Rebecca Buchholz contributed to a broadcast discussion of how wildfires affect weather and climate. The Carr Fire in Northern California during July-August 2018 reduced air quality across the western United States. In this broadcast, the question is posed at minute 24:00, and Rebecca's response is minutes 28:00-33:00. Listen...


Wednesday, February 19, 2020 - 9:39am
The discovery of a new sulfur molecule during the third leg of NASA ATom mission in 2017 raises many questions about our understanding of the marine sulfur cycle, which influences oceanic cloud formation. The left side of the diagram shows two primary reaction products of DMS, SO2 and MSA, and the newly discovered molecule, HPMTF. On the right, new research suggests that on average 30 percent of DMS becomes HPMTF. Image credit: Patrick Veres/NOAA.

The discovery of a novel sulfur compound during a 2017 NASA airborne research campaign will likely spur a scientific reassessment of a fundamental marine chemical cycle which drives the formation of oceanic clouds that play a key role in moderating climate, scientists said. The chemical, dubbed hydroperoxymethyl thioformate (or HPMTF), was discovered by NOAA scientist Patrick Veres while monitoring air samples being analyzed by a new NOAA Chemical Ionization Mass Spectrometer on board NASA’s instrumented DC-8 flying laboratory.


Wednesday, February 19, 2020 - 8:33am
Catastrophic fire warning day_0069nfx, 12 November 2019, 16:53, photo by Rob Russell from Gosford, NSW, Australia at Wikimedia Commons.

ACOM Project Scientist Rebecca Buchholz talks with Connecticut Public Radio about how climate change is shaping wildfire patterns around the globe. Are severe natural disasters becoming the “new normal”? Walter Jetz, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University, talks about the fires’ impact on biodiversity. Read more at WNPR.org . . .


Monday, January 13, 2020 - 2:56pm
Smoke from Australian bush fires on 5 January 2020. Photo by Steve Shattuck from Canberra, Australia, on Wikimedia Commons.

ACOM scientist Rebecca Buchholz contributed to an audio story about the Australian bush fires, aired January 10, 2020 on National Public Radio. Wildfires release a lot of carbon when they burn vegetation, and that massive carbon release can potentially affect the climate. Rebecca recently visited family in Australia on a smoke-filled and subdued holiday.


Monday, December 9, 2019 - 9:45am
San Francisco at Sunset.jpg, by Digon3 at Wikimedia Commons.
26 scientists from ACOM presented talks and posters at the 2019 meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, California, December 9-13.

Friday, September 13, 2019 - 9:49am
Point observations of ozone taken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

NCAR/ACOM is now generating high-resolution, experimental, 48-hour forecasts of air pollutants across the contiguous United States. The predictions, which are freely available online, can help decision makers anticipate episodes of unhealthy air as well as accelerate research into the factors that influence air quality. Read more at UCAR AtmosNews . . .


Thursday, August 29, 2019 - 10:49am
Aerial view of the Amazon Rainforest, photo by lubasi at Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aerial_view_of_the_Amazon_Rainforest.jpg

As the Amazon burns at a rate higher than any year measured since 2010, the environmental crisis is being watched closely by researchers in Boulder, who have devoted years of study to the long-term implications of degradation to the planet’s forests, critical for their capacity to store carbon dioxide. Read more at Daily Camera . . .


Monday, August 12, 2019 - 4:22pm
Scientists on a NASA-flown DC-8 were able to photograph and view this wildfire-produced thunderstorm. Layers of smoke in the atmosphere near the thunderstorm make the sun appear orange. (Photo courtesy of David Peterson, Naval Research Laboratory)

The phenomenon, called a pyrocumulonimbus or PyroCb, “is essentially a thunderstorm that is created or driven by a wildfire,” said David Peterson (Naval Research Laboratory).  “As we fly into this deep smoke, the light goes down, and the sun gets orange,” observed Rebecca Hornbrook, an atmospheric chemist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (ACOM Laboratory).


Tuesday, July 30, 2019 - 7:59am
View of Denver skyline from south Table Mountain (STM). 28 September 2012. Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:U.S._Department_of_Energy_-_Science_-_298_047_001_(27040059996).jpg

Sparked by a listener question, CPR Colorado Matters interviewed ACOM Scientist Gabriele Pfister about the transport of ozone pollution from the Colorado Front Range to the mountains. Pfister has been tracking the movement of polluted ground-level ozone for years with the Boulder-based National Center for Atmospheric Research. And yes, it makes it to the mountains.


Saturday, June 29, 2019 - 8:16am
Xuan Zhang and students in MOONLIGHT chamber study.

ACOM scientist Xuan Zhang recently led a major community project in the NCAR Atmospheric Simulation Chamber.


Wednesday, May 29, 2019 - 9:48am
Tucson, Arizona, with the Santa Catalina Mountains in the background. Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CatalinasAndTucsonAZ.jpg

Tuscon.com reported on the correlation between rising temperatures and higher ozone levels in Arizona and interviewed ACOM scientist 


Tuesday, April 30, 2019 - 9:15am
Forrrest Lacey interviewed by 9news about Denver and ozone

Forrest Lacey, ASP Postdoc in ACOM, has been interviewed by Channel 9news about the outcomes of the recent American Lung "State of the Air" 2019 report and the health effects of exposure to ozone, short term particulates, and long term particulate, specifically as they relate to the Denver Area.


Wednesday, April 3, 2019 - 10:14am
FRAPPÉ Ozone animation

KGNU Morning Magazine has interviewed ACOM Scientist Gabriele Pfister on the air quality in the Colorado Front Range and the relative contributions from local versus transported pollution. This discussion was sparked by recent news that Colorado Governor Jared Polis and the Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) Air Quality Control Commission rejected a push by a pro-industry group to pursue an “international contributions” exemption that would reduce the state’s responsibility under the federal Clean Air Act.


Wednesday, February 27, 2019 - 9:30pm
Northern lights in the Arctic (courtesy: Kerri Pratt at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor)

Monday, March 4, 2019: Siyuan Wang of ASP-NCAR presented an ACOM Seminar: Halogen chemistry in the Arctic boundary layer: new chemical insights Location: FL2-1022 (large seminar room), NCAR Foothills Laboratory; 3:15 pm - refreshments, 3:30 pm - seminar. The recorded video is available on the ACOM YouTube Channel.


Tuesday, January 29, 2019 - 12:59pm
Phoenix Convention Center - West Lobby - 2010-02-16. Photo by Cygnusloop99 at Wikimedia Commons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Phoenix_Convention_Center_-_West_Lobby_-_2010-02-16.JPG

ACOM staff joined other AMS members at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Phoenix, Arizona during 6–10 January, 2019. Although the partial government shutdown prevented some Federal employees from attending the meeting, ACOM scientists from UCAR still presented talks and posters during the week:


Monday, December 3, 2018 - 10:20am
Earth and Physical Sciences building - University of California at Davis. Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Earth_and_Physical_Sciences_building_-_University_of_California,_Davis_-_DSC03316.JPG

Several ACOM staff were at University of California-Davis during 5-7 December 2018 to attend the Atmospheric Chemical Mechanisms Conference 2018 including Louisa Emmons, Sasha Madronich, Camille Mouchel


Tuesday, August 7, 2018 - 1:30pm
Chumash Engine 802 firefighter cooling the edge du, by Kari Greer, US Forest Service. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2018_07_28-11.11.23.466-CDT.jpg

Mashable.com interviewed ACOM Deputy Director Gabriele Pfister on the topic of wildfires and air quality. “We’re right in the middle of climate change,” Gabi remarked, referring to the increased frequency of record-breaking heat as average temperatures continue to climb. Wildfires flare up during daytime and in a hotter climate. Government-issued warnings about unhealthy air quality will come more frequently even in communities far from those burning forests.


Tuesday, August 7, 2018 - 11:35am
The June 12, 1991 eruption column from Mount Pinatubo taken from the east side of Clark Air Base. U.S. Geological Survey Photograph taken on June 12, 1991, 08:51 hours, by Dave Harlow.

Scientific American reported on ACOM scientist Simone Tilmes' experiments with geoengineering. The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in June 1991 demonstrated that sulfur aerosols have a cooling effect by shading the earth's surface.


Monday, July 30, 2018 - 4:48pm
C-130 research aircraft in hangar at Rocky Mountain Regional Airport (July 11). Photo by Carl Drews.

There will be an additional plane in the air over wildfires in the northwestern United States in coming weeks, but it won't be there trying to put them out. The C-130 research aircraft flying to Boise, Idaho, from the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Broomfield on Friday will be taking to the skies over those blazes to foster a better understanding of their impact on air quality, weather patterns and longer-term climate change.


Thursday, April 26, 2018 - 4:47pm
DC-8 flight over the Antarctic Peninsula - May 9, 2018. Photo by Becky Hornbrook.

ACOM scientists Samuel Hall, Lizzy Asher, Kirk Ullman, Eric Apel, Alan Hills, and Becky Hornbrook are currently taking part in the ATom-4 Field Campaign.


Friday, April 6, 2018 - 8:48am
Cloudscape Over the Philippine Sea, at Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cloudscape_Over_the_Philippine_Sea.jpg

ACOM scientist Simone Tilmes was quoted in Live Science about a proposal to use salt in the upper troposphere to increase the atmosphere's reflectivity and thereby cool the earth. Unlike some other aerosols, sodium chloride (table salt) is not harmful to the earth's ozone layer. Tilmes cautions that salt often includes reactive iodine, an element that could also play a role in atmospheric chemistry.

April 6, 2018


Tuesday, March 6, 2018 - 10:14am
Image by NASA Earth Observatory at Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Top_of_Atmosphere.jpg

The planet's ozone layer may be thinning over earth’s heavily populated areas. Robert Lee Hotz at the Wall Street Journal reports, "In a new analysis, scientists detect shrinking of the planet’s protective shield at lower levels of the stratosphere over Earth’s nonpolar regions. Part of Earth’s protective ozone shield may be thinning over the most heavily populated regions of the globe, even as an ozone hole over Antarctica continues to mend".


Tuesday, March 6, 2018 - 9:31am
Image by Levi Siuzdak at Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spray_cans.jpg

In a surprising study, scientists say everyday chemicals now rival cars as a source of air pollution. Chris Mooney at The Washington Post reports that "the nature of air pollution is changing dramatically as cars become cleaner — leaving personal-care products, paints, indoor cleaners and other chemical-containing agents as an increasingly dominant source of key emissions." As emissions from the transportation sector decrease, the gases emitted by household products and activities have become more significant.


Thursday, January 4, 2018 - 2:40pm
Bunk S: World on Fire. PLoS Biol 2/2/2004: e54. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0020054.g001

A new NASA-led study has solved a puzzle involving the recent rise in atmospheric methane, a potent greenhouse gas, with a new calculation of emissions from global fires. The new study resolves what looked like irreconcilable differences in explanations for the increase.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017 - 10:17am
Surface ozone on the Front Range. Image by UCAR AtmosNews.

A comprehensive new air quality report for the state of Colorado quantifies the sources of summertime ozone in Denver and the northern Front Range, revealing the extent to which motor vehicles and oil and gas operations are the two largest local contributors to the pollutant.


Monday, October 23, 2017 - 10:55am
Different areas in Lake Tahoe side by side. Photo courtesy of Andrew Tucker.

One of the largely unanticipated impacts of a changing climate may be a decline in sunlight's ability to disinfect lakes, rivers, and coastal waters, possibly leading to an increase in waterborne pathogens and the diseases they can cause in humans and wildlife. ACOM's TUV Model was used in the study to evaluate the disinfecting power of UV light.


Wednesday, August 30, 2017 - 11:59am
An illustration of an asteroid impacting earth. (Credit: NASA)

Tremendous amounts of soot, lofted into the air from global wildfires following a massive asteroid strike 66 million years ago, would have plunged Earth into darkness for nearly two years, new research finds. This would have shut down photosynthesis, drastically cooled the planet, and contributed to the mass extinction that marked the end of the age of dinosaurs.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017 - 4:32pm
Total solar eclipse at Casper Mountain, Wyoming on August 21, 2017. Photo credit: Keon Gibson, NCAR

CASPER MOUNTAIN. — It’s nothing like a sunset. It’s cold and dark, but it’s not like nighttime, or even twilight. The moon just snaps into place over the last slivers of the sun, turning the sun into a dark hole. The only illumination — a flat, ghostly, metallic sort of light — is from peaked gossamer streamers stretching out toward the edges of the sky.


Thursday, June 29, 2017 - 3:40pm
Figure 1 of Buchholz et al 2017

Measurements of carbon dioxide from the MOPITT satellite instrument have been validated using the NDACC network of ground-based measurements. ACOM scientist Rebecca Buchholz and colleagues reported on their study of MOPITT version 6 retrievals using total column CO measurements from ground-based remote-sensing Fourier transform infrared spectrometers (FTSs).


Quantifying Fire Emissions & Associated Aerosol Species using Assimilation of Satellite Carbon Monoxide Retrievals
Friday, May 5, 2017 - 2:35pm

Wildfires tend to be more intense and hence costly and are predicted to increase in frequency under a warming climate. For example, the recent August 2015 Washington State fires were the largest in the state’s history. Such large fires impact not only the local environment but also affect air quality far downwind through the long-range transport of pollutants. Global to continental scale coverage showing the evolution of CO resulting from fire emission is available from satellite observations.


Reductions in Anthropogenic Carbon Monoxide Emissions Lead to Shorter Methane Lifetimes in the Atmosphere
Friday, May 5, 2017 - 2:27pm

About half of atmospheric carbon monoxide (CO) is from direct (CO) emissions that are due to incomplete combustion and are related to both natural (e.g. wildfires) and anthropogenic activities. The remainder of CO in the atmosphere is produced from the chemical oxidation of hydrocarbons, mainly from biogenic sources and methane (CH4). Since most of the hydrocarbons, CO, and CH4 in the atmosphere are oxidized by the hydroxyl radical (OH), the associated chemical lifetimes of these species are strongly coupled with OH.


Thursday, April 6, 2017 - 1:56pm

In celebration of Air Quality Awareness week, NCAR is hosting an open house featuring information and family friendly activities about air quality. Learn from experts about air quality, how we measure and research it, and how it impacts humans, plants, and animals. NCAR’s new air quality exhibit will also be featured.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017 - 10:48am

With world leaders agreeing to try to limit the increase in global temperatures, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) are taking a look at whether geoengineering the climate could counter enough warming to help meet that goal. "One thing that surprised me about this study is how much geoengineering it would take to stay within 2 degrees if we don't start reducing greenhouse gases soon," said ACOM scientist Simone Tilmes, the lead author.


Thursday, March 23, 2017 - 10:00am
An image taken from space of smoke billowing from fires in Jambi Province on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The false-color image was made with a combination of visible (green) and infrared light so that fires and freshly burned land stand out. (Image courtesy NASA.)

2015 wildfires linked to as many as 17,270 premature deaths

ACOM scientist Christine Wiedinmyer is a co-author of a new study into the health effects of the 2015 Indonesian wildfires. This is an excerpt from a news release issued by Newcastle University.

Wildfires in Indonesia and Borneo exposed 69 million people to unhealthy air pollution, new research has shown.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - 9:56am
This animation shows the opening and closing of the Antarctic ozone hole (dark blue) in 2015. (Animation courtesy of NASA.)

Susan Solomon at MIT, along with ACOM scientists Doug Kinnison and Michael Mills, have identified the “first fingerprints of healing” of the Antarctic ozone layer, published on June 30, 2016 in the journal Science. The research was covered by BBC Science.


Friday, May 13, 2016 - 10:26am
From left: ACOM scientists Sam Hall, Benjamin Gaubert, Pablo Saide, Deedee Montzka, Louisa Emmons, and Andy Weinheimer. (Photo courtesy Sam Hall, ACOM)

Between May 1 and June 12, 2016, ACOM scientists and their colleagues from NASA, U.S. and South Korean universities, and South Korea’s National Institute of Environmental Research (NIER) will collect observations from airborne labs, ships, satellites, and ground-based instruments. The campaign, which involves more than 580 researchers from 72 institutions, is called KORUS-AQ (Korea U.S.-Air Quality study).


Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - 11:58am
Asteroids passing earth - Discovery News, February 10, 2016

Discovery News: A strike by a medium-size asteroid in a forested region could change the Earth’s climate to ice-age like conditions with effects lasting for up to 10 years. Airborne soot and dust aerosols would decrease the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface, which would cause significant surface cooling, reduce precipitation and could threaten global food supplies, says ACOM's Chuck Bardeen.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016 - 2:43pm
University of Maryland chemistry graduate student Julie Nicely provides real-time analysis of data collected off the coast of Guam. Photo credit: Ross Salawitch

Phys.org published an article about ACOM's CONTRAST field campaign that operated out of Guam during January and February 2014. Biomass burning in the equatorial regions of Africa and Asia causes pockets of high ozone over the western Pacific Ocean.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015 - 4:37pm
Image credit: NASA/Steele Hill http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hinode/solar_004_prt.htm

A research paper co-authored by ACOM scientist Dan Marsh was featured in Eos. The paper describes how WACCM version 4 produces a stronger vertical circulation in the earth's atmosphere, bringing NO and NO2 down into the stratosphere over Antarctica and destroying ozone there.


Monday, October 26, 2015 - 8:29am
Panorama of Boulder, Colorado taken from just south of Fairview High School. Photo by Hustvedt at Wikimedia Commons.

The SPARC regional workshop on “Chemical and Physical Processes in the Climate System" will be held on 9-10 November 2015 at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, back-to-back with the SPARC Scientific Steering Group (SSG) meeting (10-13 November 2015).


Thursday, October 22, 2015 - 10:26am
Geostationary satellite

October 21, 2015 | ACOM scientists Jerome Barre, David Edwards, and Helen Worden have demonstrated how new types of satellite data could improve how agencies monitor and forecast air quality, both globally and by region. The new satellite observations would significantly improve air pollution forecasts.


Tuesday, October 22, 2019 - 6:00am
Nuclear test near Las Vegas

A hypothetical nuclear war between India and Pakistan could kill 50-125 million people in the two nations in less than a week, according to new research.


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