It sounds like a delectable dessert.
In fact, it's an ambitious effort to gather thorough data on all the pollutants that appear in the atmosphere over the Front Range during the summer months and prevent the metro area from meeting federal air quality standards.
The somewhat unwieldy name of this multi-agency effort, launching July 16, is the Front Range Air Pollution and Photochemistry Experiment. It's known to those participating in the effort as FRAPPÉ, and the lead agency is the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder.
Other principal collaborators include NASA, the University of Colorado's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, Colorado State University, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"Something this comprehensive, such a major campaign, has not happened in the Front Range before," said Gabriele Pfister, an atmospheric scientist for NCAR. She and NCAR's Frank Flocke are the study's two principal investigators.
Will Allison, director of the Air Pollution Control Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, agreed.
"It's a significant project. It's a unique project that doesn't have many contemporaries across the country," Allison said. "It's a really unique opportunity to learn more about air quality in our region and the various complex things that contribute to our air quality."
Summer ozone levels
The price tag on FRAPPÉ is about $3.5 million, with $2 million of that coming from the state of Colorado and the balance contributed by the National Science Foundation, to fund operation and instrumentation for NCAR's C-130 aircraft, as well as education and outreach.
The nine-county northern Colorado Front Range area has struggled in recent years to stay in compliance with the federal ozone standard of 75 parts per billion, set in 2008.
"We are in what's called 'marginal non-attainment,' which is the lowest level of non-attainment," Allison said. "Depending on the monitor, it might be around 77 parts per billion. It fluctuates.
"With our hot, dry summers, we tend to see higher ozone levels because ozone is formed with a combination of air pollution and sunlight. We tend to go under in the winter — however, higher wintertime ozone levels are a somewhat new phenomenon being observed."
Pfister said meeting the federal standards requires an understanding of why the metro area is in violation of those standards.
"We need to figure out what are the factors causing the high ozone, and only if we know that can we address them and try to address the current pollution that we have," she said. "That's basically the objective of FRAPPÉ, to come to an understanding of what are all the different factors that drive the summertime ozone pollution."
Parallel NASA study
FRAPPÉ will be bolstered through being closely coordinated with a contemporaneous effort, the NASA DISCOVER-AQ project. The name stands for Deriving Information on Surface conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality, and it is employing NASA aircraft and Earth-observing satellites to measure air quality, distinguishing between pollution high in the atmosphere and that closer to the surface where people live and breathe.
NASA launched the multi-year airborne field campaign in 2011, based at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., and selected the Front Range, along with Baltimore, Houston and California's San Joaquin Valley of Central California on which to focus.
The two research efforts, FRAPPÉ and the NASA project, will both run from July 16 to Aug. 16. The Colorado effort will use existing ground-monitoring sites, vans on the streets equipped with sensors, and augment that with data collected by the C-130 aircraft. NASA will complete the pollutants picture by aircraft and satellite, and data collected will be shared between the two.
"They are two different campaigns, but the way we work it is as one campaign," Pfister said. "We work it as fully complementary."
Allison said, "These types of studies, both NASA and FRAPPÉ, allow us to expand that knowledge base to measure air quality off the ground, and at various levels of the atmosphere, and to further refine our models not only to predict air quality but also to go back in time and better understand where it is coming from — California, Asia, and what have you."
Although data will only be collected over the one-month period, Pfister joked that analyzing it will last "probably to my retirement." She is now 44.
"Typically, for a field campaign, you say up to two to three years after the campaign, this is when you produce the most results," she said. "But that doesn't mean that after that time period, you stop analyzing."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Charlie Brennan at 303-473-1327 or firstname.lastname@example.org.