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SOLVE Press Info

John Bluck Nov. 18, 1999

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA

(Phone: 650/604-5026 or 604-9000)


NASA scientists are joining with researchers from Europe, Russia, and Japan to mount the largest field measurement campaign ever to measure ozone amounts and changes in the Arctic upper atmosphere this winter.

The NASA sponsored SAGE III Ozone Loss and Validation Experiment (SOLVE) is being conducted jointly with the European Commission sponsored Third European Stratospheric Experiment on Ozone (THESEO 2000). These collaborative campaigns will obtain measurements of ozone and other atmospheric gases using satellites, airplanes, heavy-lift and small balloons, and ground-based instruments. Researchers will examine the processes that control ozone amounts at mid to high latitudes during the Arctic winter. The campaign will be conducted from November 1999 through March 2000.

"The combined SOLVE and THESEO-2000 campaigns will provide an immense new body of information about the Arctic stratosphere," said SOLVE Program Scientist Dr. Michael Kurylo, at NASA's Headquarters, Washington, DC. "A better understanding of the possibility of continuing ozone loss and of expected ozone recovery over the next several decades will be greatly enhanced by this international pooling of observational, modeling, and intellectual resources."

The SOLVE/THESEO-2000 campaign is a new level of active cooperation between US, European, Russian, and other national research scientists. Such scientific collaboration has been encouraged under the 1998 European Union/United States Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement. More than 350 scientists, technicians and support workers are involved in the SOLVE/THESEO-2000 experiment. Most of their measurement activity will occur in three phases during winter.

"The SOLVE/THESEO-2000 experiment is the largest stratospheric field mission that has ever been conducted," said SOLVE Project Manager Michael Craig of NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA. "Handling all of the hardware and coordinating the personnel, aircraft, balloons, and ground observations involved in the campaign is an immense challenge that must be met to insure a successful mission."

More than 15 years ago, scientists detected an "Ozone Hole" over the South Pole that has reappeared each year during the Southern Hemisphere winter and spring. Researchers from around the world recognized more than a decade ago that the ozone depletion is caused primarily by man-made chlorine and bromine compounds. The chlorine compounds have been produced for use as refrigerants, aerosol sprays, solvents and foam blowing agents, while bromine-containing halons have been used in fire extinguishing. Man-made production of chlorofluorocarbons ceased in 1996 in developed countries under the terms of the Montreal Protocol and its Amendments.

The Earth's ozone layer protects life below from the harmful ultraviolet radiation coming from the Sun. For example, this radiation can damage DNA molecules, thereby leading to the formation of skin cancers. Very low levels of ozone were observed over the Arctic in several winters during the 1990s, raising concerns that an Arctic ozone hole might be forming. Recent modeling work has suggested that greenhouse gas warming might lead to larger-than-expected Arctic ozone losses in the future and also may delay the expected recovery of the ozone layer globally.

Measurements of stratospheric composition over the Arctic will be made using a large suite of instruments aboard several European aircraft, as well as on NASA's DC-8 and ER-2 aircraft, which are based at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA. Balloons, carrying payloads ranging from several pounds to several thousand pounds and ground-based instruments will also take atmospheric readings.

In addition, scientists will gather ozone-related data that will be useful in validating measurements by the SAGE III instrument aboard the Russian Meteor-3 satellite. Once the spacecraft is aloft, SAGE III will measure the vertical structure of aerosols, ozone, water vapor and other trace gases in the Arctic upper troposphere and stratosphere. NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, manages the SAGE III project.

SOLVE scientists will be based above the Arctic Circle at the airport in Kiruna, Sweden. "Arena Arctica," a large hangar especially built for research, will house the aircraft and many of the scientific instruments. Balloons will be launched from Esrange, a balloon and rocket launch facility near Kiruna. Wintertime conditions can be very severe, with temperatures falling below 50 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

More information (including a list of participating institutions) can be found at their respective web sites:

(SOLVE) -- http://cloud1.arc.nasa.gov/solve/index.html
(THESEO 2000) -- http://www.ozone-sec.ch.cam.ac.uk
(NASA Media Guide) -- http://george.arc.nasa.gov/dx/basket/factsheets/FS991103.html

Journalists will be invited to the main field staging area in Kiruna, Sweden, for a "media day" in late January 2000, when most of the science teams will be on hand. A newsroom will be established near the airport during this peak period, and journalists will be escorted into the research area to meet with operational and scientific personnel.