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Sampling San Diego’s Smoggy Skies

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Aired 4/19/09

(Photo: Technicians prepare an autonomous unmanned aircraft for launch at Edwards Air Force Base. Scripps Institution of Oceanograph, UC San Diego )

Scientists at UC-San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography are using an unmanned aircraft to sample Southern California's air. They're looking to find out what's in our smog and where it comes from.  KPBS Reporter Ed Joyce has details.

The Scripps team hopes to find out how much of the air pollution in Southern California comes from Asia, Mexico and areas north of the state.

Scripps Atmospheric and Climate Sciences Professor V. Ramanathan says the early data shows that a major cause of global warming is in our air.
Ramanathan: Even the rough data is already showing we are finding what we suspected - large amount of black carbon. It's soot but we call it black carbon because it absorbs sunlight.
He says black carbon and other pollutants transported from other countries mixes with falling snow here and causes a faster snowmelt.

Ramanthan says that's because the carbon speeds the warming of the snow. 

He also says the research makes clear how how air pollution from one continent affects another one halfway around the world.

Ed Joyce, KPBS News.

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