music; ambience: walking on volcanic rock
“It’s a wonderful place to work, cleanest sky on the planet, except when air pollution from China and dust from the Gobi desert come by in the spring.”
And it’s a great location to study the atmosphere. The Mauna Loa Observatory in the Pacific is a valuable research station for scientists worldwide. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside.
“I’m walking across the lava field on 11,200 feet up the slope of the Mauna Loa in Hawaii. It’s Hawaii’s largest volcano. It’s also the largest mountain in the world. If you measured its altitude from the bottom of the ocean, Mauna Loa would be higher than Mount Everest.”
Forrest Mims is a citizen scientist who visits Mauna Loa’s summit to study such atmospheric phenomena as the ozone layer, ultraviolet radiation, and water vapor.
ambience: atmospheric measurement instrument
“I’m preparing to make an ozone reading. For the past 15 years, every year I come to the Mauna Loa observatory to calibrate my instruments. This particular one measures the ozone layer. And we can check, that’s three readings, it’s 274.7 Dobson units. The average around the world is 300. That’s normal for the tropics here in Hawaii.”
Ozone comprises an atmospheric layer that protects our planet from potentially harmful ultraviolet rays. Dobson units are used to measure the thickness of the ozone layer. Three hundred Dobson units is equivalent to 3 millimeters.
“There’s considerable Chinese dust in the sky over Hawaii these past few days. This happens every spring, and we’re right in the middle of it. It brings along with it ozone and sulphur dioxide as well. So we get lots of pollution crossing the Pacific Ocean, all the way to North America.”
We’ll hear more on Forrest Mims’ research in future programs.
Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation.