METEOROLOGY BEGINS 5-YEAR PRECIPITATION MONITORING
has entered into a partnership with the National Atmospheric Deposition
Program (NADP), the Mercury Deposition Network (MDN), and the PA-Department
of Environmental Protection (DEP) to monitor the chemical makeup
and mercury content in precipitation. Dr Richard Clark and a select
group of meteorology and chemistry students have committed to collecting
weekly precipitation samples from standardized collection units
located about 1.5 miles west of Millersville for a period of at
least five years. New students will be brought into the program
as others graduate, so that over the lifetime of the project about
30 students will be exposed to the techniques of sampling and chemical
analysis of precipitation.
MU joins 200
other NADP sites in 46 states, some of which have a continuous record
of 22 years of precipitation chemistry data. This program compiles
data on the amounts of calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, ammonium
ion, nitrate, chlorine, sulfate anion, and the pH of precipitation.
On the other hand, the MDN has only been in existence since 1994,
and MU is the latest addition to a network of 35 sites sampling
for mercury as part of the development of a regional database.
Why should we
be concerned about atmospheric deposition? As rain or snow forms
and falls, it scavenges particles and gases from the air. Precipitation
deposits these substances on the Earth's surface. Monitoring precipitation
chemistry over space and time helps us describe the chemical climate
in a region and throughout the country. Many factors affect the
chemical climate: emissions of pollutants to the atmosphere, how
these pollutants are mixed or dispersed in the air, how they are
transported by the wind, how they chemically transform during transport,
and how they are scavenged by precipitation or removed as dry deposition.
This description makes it apparent that the interplay of meteorology
and atmospheric chemistry affect precipitation chemistry in defining
our chemical climate (Ref: http://nadp.sws.uius.edu).
It is not difficult
to imagine the educational benefits that accompany having a NADP/MDN
monitoring site nearby. Not only can students fully participate
in the collection and chemical analysis of precipitation, gaining
practical field and laboratory experience, but courses such as Chemistry
of the Atmosphere (P), Environmental Meteorology (G2, L), and Environmental
Chemistry (G2, L) can use the site and the broader NADP/MDN database
to launch discussions related to the factors affecting precipitation
chemistry. What is most exciting says Dr Clark is that this project
is inherently interdisciplinary and has the potential to bring students
of meteorology and chemistry together in a real world setting to
practice science as science is practiced, discuss issues in a language
that transcends both disciplines, and see the results of their efforts
enhance a national database that is meaningful to science and society.
students, Matthew Alonso (left) and Eric Vernon collect samples
of precipitation at the new NADP/MDN site located in an agricultural
setting west of Millersville Boro.