Trolling for airborne toxics

Sheble, Nicholas
June 2004
InTech;Jun2004, Vol. 51 Issue 6, p55
This article focuses on the tests conducted by the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) on the high technology instruments and weather forecasting models in 2004. The tests scan for potential airborne toxins near the Pentagon and predict their motion and effect on the building. The knowledge gained from the tests will allow the development of improved systems for protecting Department of Defense facilities. Understanding air circulation around the Pentagon is a unique challenge. The air circulations are very complex because of the building's size and unusual geometry. Temperature inversions could allow an airborne hazard to spread below rooftop height, which adds to the complexity of a monitoring system. In addition to the weather modeling system's standard equipment, the tests included a 23-foot-long instrumented balloon tethered above the Pentagon. The setup includes sensors studded along the balloon's tethering wire. Most modern weather forecasts target areas the size of a country, not a single building. NCAR and colleagues are developing a weather monitoring system that includes a multiscale weather forecast model. Every fifteen minutes, the software pulls information from a high-resolution regional weather analysis and generates a set of wind forecasts with increasingly finer detail at smaller scales.


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