Current Research Projects

Western Wildfire Experiments for Cloud Chemistry, Aerosol Absorption, and Nitrogen

Sponsor: NSF Atmospheric Chemistry
PI Team: Emily V. Fischer (CSU), Jeffrey Collett Jr. (CSU), Amy Sullivan (CSU), Paul DeMott (CSU), Shane Murphy (U. of Wyoming), Joel Thornton (U. of Washington), Frank Flocke (NCAR), Susan van den Heever (CSU), Darin Toohey (U. Colorado Boulder), and Lu Hu (U. Montana)

Understanding the chemistry in western wildfire smoke has major ramifications for air quality, nutrient cycles, weather and climate. This project will systematically characterize the emissions and first day of evolution of western U.S. wildfire plumes. We focus on three sets of scientific questions related to fixed nitrogen, absorbing aerosols, cloud activation and chemistry in wildfire plumes. The data will be collected from the NCAR/NSF C-130 research aircraft in summer 2018. Find more information on logistics here:

Assimilation and Analysis of Terra Observations of Amazonian Biomass Burning Emissions

Sponsor: NASA (Science of Terra and Aqua)
PI: Merritt Deeter (NCAR); Other Co-Investigators: Christine Wiedinmyer (NCAR), Ave Arellano (U. of Arizona), Maria Val Martin (CSU)

We will investigate the emission and transport of biomass burning products from the Amazon Basin region using multiple Terra datasets, two global atmospheric chemical transport models, and a data assimilation system. In Year 3 of the project, the Fischer Group will use improved estimates of Amazonian biomass burning emissions and injection heights in a model-based study of tropospheric ozone over the Atlantic using GEOS-Chem.

Planning for an Unknown Future: Incorporating Meteorological Uncertainty into Predictions of the Impact of Fires and Dust on US Particulate Matter

Other Co-Investigators: Libby Barnes, Jeff Pierce

The focus of this work is to determine how model uncertainty in future meteorology translates into uncertainty in the contributions of smoke and dust to future particulate matter (PM) episodes.

Improving the recruitment and persistence of women in the geosciences: Exploring deliberate mentoring approaches aimed at undergraduate students
Sponsor: NSF IUSE

Co-Investigators: Paul Hernandez (WVU), Laura Sample McMeeking (CSU STEM Center), Rebecca Barnes (Colorado College), Sandra Clinton (UNCC)

Women continue to be largely under-represented in the geosciences. Female role models and mentors can play an important role in the lives of female students, especially when choosing and committing to a career path. We aim to recruit and mentor STEM undergraduate women into the geosciences through a combination of formal and informal, professional and peer mentoring. This project will recruit first-year college women interested in the geosciences (from any STEM major) from institutions in two geographic regions: the Front Range and the Carolinas. During their first year, these women will be invited to a regional mentoring workshop to 1) learn more about geoscience careers, 2) meet peers with similar academic interests, 3) gain better selfawareness of their values, strengths, and liabilities for a career in the geosciences, and 4) expand their psychological, social and institutional resources for a career in the geosciences. After the workshop, the program participants will have access to peer mentoring and resources through a web platform hosted by the Earth Science Women’s Network. Through this platform, they will also be able to interact with each other via discussion forums. In addition, they will have access to in-person mentoring with female role models via scheduled get-togethers at each institution.

Following Emissions from Non-Traditional Oil and Gas Development Through their Impact on Tropospheric Ozone

Sponsor: NOAA Atmospheric Chemistry, Carbon Cycle, and Climate (AC4) Program
Co-Investigator: Delphine Farmer (CSU Chemistry)

This project will investigate how emissions from oil and gas extraction change O3 production at the local, continental and global scale. The work tackles these questions through a combination of observations and global modeling: 1. What are characteristic O3 production rates and efficiencies in air masses influenced by emissions from oil and gas production? 2. To what extent have emissions from oil and gas production impacted the extent of NOx versus NMVOC limited O3 production? 3. Through which chemical pathways do emissions from oil and gas production propagate most efficiently to global O3 production? 4. How do emissions from this sector affect radiative forcing through perturbations to tropospheric O3, methane, and remote aerosol formation?

Past Research Projects

Fresh constraints on the global ozone budget through the analysis of new peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN) observations from TES

Sponsor: NASA (Aura Science Team)
Co-PI: Vivienne Payne (JPL)

Tropospheric ozone is the third most important anthropogenic greenhouse gas and a significant surface pollutant. This project improved our understanding of ozone production and transport using the new global measurements of peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN) from the Aura Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer (TES). We used new PAN measurements from TES to understand 1) the mechanisms by which anthropogenic emissions of nitrogen oxides are transported to remote locations, 2) the contribution of wildfires to the abundance of PAN in several regions of the Northern Hemisphere, and 3) the relative importance of wildfires versus lightning to a major feature of the global ozone distribution in the tropics.

Observational constraints on the impact of oil and gas exploration on ozone production in the Northern Colorado Front Range Metro Area as part of FRAPPE

Sponsors: CDPHE & NPS

PI: Delphine Farmer (CSU Chemistry)

It is not often that major atmospheric chemistry field campaigns are organized in your backyard, but summer 2014 was special for the Fischer Group. The Front Range Air Pollution and Photochemistry Experiment (FRAPPE) was designed to characterize and understand summertime air quality in the Northern Front Range Metropolitan Area. This region exceeds the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone during summer months. The campaign was a collaborative effort between the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, Colorado State University, the University of Colorado, UC Berkeley, other university collaborators, NASA, NOAA, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The FRAPPE mission supported the deployment of airborne measurements of ozone and its precursor on the NCAR/NSF C-130 aircraft and extensive ground-based measurements. It was closely linked with a concurrent DISCOVER-AQ project, which also had three aircraft deployed to the Colorado Front Range.

CSU played a major role in the experiment. In collaboration with the Farmer Group (Chemistry), the Fischer Group conducted a suite of ground-based measurements at the NOAA BAO Tower, located in Erie, CO. The measurements, which were supported by the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, (CDPHE) are designed to constrain ozone production rates in the Front Range and to understand the impact of hydrocarbon emission from oil and gas operations on the production of ozone. The BAO field site is well situated for this research because it is heavily impacted by oil and gas operations and agricultural emissions when the wind is from the northeast, 2) impacted by Denver urban emissions when the wind is from the south, and 3) the hydrocarbon signature connected to oil and gas operations can be clearly distinguished from the urban signature at this location. Though initial results are very interesting, FRAPPE marks the beginning of a much longer-term collaboration for these two research groups. The Fischer and Farmer groups began a three-year NOAA project in fall 2014 to follow emissions from oil and gas development through their impacts on tropospheric ozone.

With support from the National Park Service, the Collett and Fischer research groups also collaborated to conduct measurements of another large suite of pollutants at Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) during FRAPPE. RMNP suffers from multiple air quality problems including elevated ozone concentrations and harmful levels of nitrogen deposition. The measurements at RMNP were designed to better understand the sources of ozone at the site and the specific species contributing to nitrogen deposition.

The Department also provided essential support for the NCAR/NSF C-130 aircraft during FRAPPE. With the complex topography in our region, weather forecasting can be challenging. Information on the low-level wind flow pattern, amount of cloud cover, potential for thunderstorms, etc. was essential to mission operations so that changes in the flight plan could be made during individual flights in response to changing weather conditions. Supervised by Assistant Professor Russ Schumacher, several CSU Atmospheric Science graduate students served as now-casters and were in contact with the mission scientists on the C-130 through chat during each flight. They provided real-time advice on flight route adjustments that are allowing the aircraft to collect the data needed to meet the scientific objectives of the campaign and keep everyone safe.