Surratt collaborates on study to unlock air pollution secrets and impacts on climate change

May 28, 2013
Jason Surratt, PhD, is one of an international team of investigators who will study chemical processes in the atmosphere that affect regional climate and air quality in the southeastern United States this summer.Surratt is assistant professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Dr. Jason Surratt, in the woods near his research site in Look Rock, Tenn.

Dr. Jason Surratt, in the woods near his research site in Look Rock, Tenn.

The Southeast Atmosphere Study (SAS), a joint project of the National Science Foundation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and 30 international research institutions, including the University of North Carolina’s public health school, is the largest U.S. air-quality study in decades. Growing out of the unprecedented collaboration of five projects addressing various components of air quality and atmospheric chemicals and aerosols, the study will be conducted at sites across the southeast between June 1 and July 15.

The primary ‘supersite,’ near Brent, Ala., will host about 100 participants and about 50 specialized samplers and analyzers as part of the Southeastern Aerosol and Atmospheric Characterization (SEARCH) Network. Complementary sites in Look Rock, Tenn., where Surratt’s testing takes place, Research Triangle Park, N.C., and the Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center, near Marion, Ala., will make chemical and atmospheric observations and measure radiation levels, as scientists attempt to characterize the content, form and evolution of chemical and aerosol species during the southeast’s hot, humid summer months.

Surratt’s project is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The synergy of these projects builds upon the success of previous studies, especially the Southern Oxidant Study (SOS) of the 1990s in the same region. As part of this summer’s collaboration, scientists will investigate why and how the southeastern U.S. has not warmed as has the rest of the continental U.S. and the world. A combined investment of more than $20 million will include deployment of major measurement facilities and sampling across the region, from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Ocean and from the Ohio River Valley to the Gulf of Mexico; an integrated sounding system (ISS) which will measure wind, moisture and temperature gradients; and platform towers with instrumentation capable of taking accurate readings from the surface up to 45 meters within the forest canopy and in the air above the forest.

Information about the projects, deployment and measurement plans, observation summaries and preliminary data products can be found online.

Read more about Surratt’s research in the spring 2013 issue of Carolina Public Health magazine.


Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or