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Thick smog often obscures the sky over Beijing and nearby regions. Residents are frequently warned to spend as little time as possible outdoors, due to the air pollution.
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Scientists to Assess Beijing Olympics Air Pollution Control Efforts
News story originally written on August 7, 2008

During the Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, scientists have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to observe how the atmosphere responds when a heavily populated region substantially cuts back on everyday industrial emissions. A specially equipped unmanned aircraft will go on a series of flights to measure smog and its effects on meteorological conditions.

The flights will start at the South Korean island of Cheju, located about 1,165 kilometers (725 miles) southeast of Beijing. Cheju is in the projected path of pollution plumes that begin in various cities in China, including the capital.

Information from the flights will be combined with measurements by satellites and observatories on the ground that will track dust, soot and other pollution aerosols that travel from Beijing and other parts of China in so-called atmospheric brown clouds.

Chinese officials have reduced industrial activity by as much as 30 percent and mandated cuts in automobile use by half in order to safeguard the health of competing athletes immediately before and during the games. The instruments in the unmanned aircraft will observe pollution transport patterns during Beijing's "great shutdown" for the Summer Olympic Games.

"We have a huge and unprecedented opportunity to observe a large reduction in everyday emissions from a region that's very industrially active," said atmospheric scientist V. Ramanathan of SIO, the lead investigator of this project. He added, "Black carbon in soot is a major contributor to global warming. By determining the effects of soot reductions during the Olympics on atmospheric heating, we can gain much needed insights into the magnitude of future global warming."

Soon-Chang Yoon, a researcher at the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Seoul National University in Korea, added,"This will be a very interesting experiment that can never happen again."

Satellite and ground observations began on August 1. Pre-inspection test flights are scheduled to begin August 9, with the field campaign expected to run through September 30.

Last modified August 12, 2008 by Becca Hatheway.

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