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The Maryland Department of the Environment and Howard University teamed up to put the latest in air monitoring technology to use at Howard’s Beltsville research site. Monitoring air quality in Maryland is critical to MDE’s efforts to improve air quality and protect public health.
The Beltsville Air Monitoring Station is part of an extensive network of 24 ambient air monitoring stations and two “haze cams” operated and maintained by MDE’s air monitoring staff. The station differs from others because of the number and diversity of instruments deployed and the on-going air quality research being carried out in collaboration with Howard scientists.
The station collects data for criteria pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and fine particle matter (PM2.5) to demonstrate compliance status with National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The station is also part of:
The federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Chemical Speciation Network, where PM2.5 filter samples are analyzed to determine the chemical makeup;
The Photochemical Assessment Monitoring Station network, which collects data on volatile organic compounds that are ozone precursors;
MDE’s Air Toxics Network, which evaluates trends and the distribution of hazardous air pollutants; and
MDE’s meteorological data network.
At the Beltsville station, new instruments are evaluated before being deployed to other Maryland ambient air monitoring stations. With its instrument testing activities, its large number of research-grade instruments, and with the unique measurements that are made, the Beltsville site is a highly valuable research site. The site is an important resource for visitors from the EPA, other State and federal agencies, university scientists, and others studying air quality.
Two particularly interesting pieces of meteorological equipment - a refurbished Radar Wind Profiler and a Radio Acoustic Sounding System - were deployed in 2005 at the Beltsville site. The Wind Profiler is capable of measuring wind speed and wind direction from approximately 300 to 13,000 feet above the ground, and the Sounding System measures virtual temperature from approximately 15 to 5,000 feet above the ground. These measurements led to the discovery of a stream of fast-moving air that normally travels up the East Coast through Maryland to points north during the late night and early morning hours, and is commonly referred to as the Nocturnal Low Level Jet.
That Jet normally occurs during the summer season at levels approximately 700 to 3,000 feet above the ground, with wind speeds of 35 miles per hour or greater. Researchers wanted to prove their theory that the Jet played a role in transporting ozone into Maryland during the late night and early morning hours. They launched balloons carrying instruments to measure ozone, wind speed, and wind direction in the early morning to measure aloft ozone concentrations and to determine the strength of the Nocturnal Low Level Jet. The results showed significantly elevated ozone concentrations at 2 a.m. approximately 1,600 ft. above the ground arriving on southerly winds. Over the past five summers, MDE and Howard demonstrated through continued measurements the ongoing phenomenon of ozone transport into Maryland.
Click here for more information on Maryland’s Air Quality Monitoring Program.