NOAA offers closer look at plane used to study Utah’s air pollution

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SALT LAKE CITY — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Utah Department of Environmental Quality offered a closer look Wednesday at the specialized aircraft researchers are using to collect data on Utah's air pollution.

The NOAA's "Twin Otter" is being used to collect data about the chemical conditions responsible for the formation of particulate pollution, known as PM2.5. 

"This is really a first of its kind study. To use a research aircraft like this, to understand the emissions, the atmospheric chemistry in a region like this is something that hasn't been done here before," said Dr. Steven Brown, a research chemist in the chemical sciences division at NOAA's earth system research lab. "We think [this study] will be much more informative to the policy community than the existing database, the historical record of data, that's here now."

The Twin Otter flies about six hours per day to gather samples, which are being taken over the Salt Lake, Cache and Utah valleys, during the typical inversion period between January 17 and February 14. Researchers are also gathering data from ground-based observation sites. Once the data is collected, scientists will spend about a year analyzing it and present their findings to the Utah Legislature.

Researchers from the NOAA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture and local universities are involved in the $2 million project, and the Utah Legislature provided about $130,000 in seed money.