Balloon raises hopes for improved air quality

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZTpKeTKGOw

A big orange balloon in the sky…that’s what residents in north central Fresno spotted recently above the Fresno State campus.

While it may have looked like big kids playing with great helium-filled toy, it was in fact a team of faculty and student researchers conducting sophisticated data recordings that will help to provide cleaner air in Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley.

Fresno State chemistry Professor Alam Hasson, who is leading the study, explained the balloon.

“We’re using the balloon to try and understand more about how agricultural facilities such as dairy operations affect air quality in the region,” Hasson said. “We’re collecting air samples and then we analyze the samples to try to understand the chemistry involved and what’s going on in the atmosphere.”

Collaborating on the project is assistant geography professor Segun Ogunjemiyo, who said the balloon is used to measure the vertical profile of ozone, volatile organic compounds and meteorological variables in the air.

Once the air samples are analyzed, researchers draw conclusions about what types of compounds may have been released into the air at different times of the day, and how temperature and wind flow affect the dispersion of such compounds. Air samples are simultaneously taken upwind of dairies, Hasson said. Those samples serve as a control for comparison of downwind samples.

Years of work at Fresno State, partially supported by the California State University Agricultural Research Institute and the California Air Resources Board, has attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which invested $600,000 in the current work being conducted on campus.

According to Hasson, Fresno state students, at both the graduate and undergraduate levels and across multiple disciplines, have played an integral role in the project.

For more information on his air emissions research, Hasson may be contacted at ahasson@csufresno.edu.

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