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Canaan Valley

The mid-Atlantic Highland region is known to be adversely impacted by the atmospheric deposition of pollutants. In fact, portions of this area are considered to be among the worst in the nation for acid rain. Consequently, NOAA Air Resources Laboratory's (NOAA/ARL) Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division, with support from the Canaan Valley Institute and in collaboration with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has initiated an air quality research and monitoring site on the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Canaan Valley, WV (39° 03' 48" N, 79° 25' 15" W).

Picture of Canaan Valley

The research at this site is initially focusing on acid deposition, nitrogen deposition, and ambient ozone levels. Acid deposition from the atmosphere can be a significant source of acidification in watersheds. Excess nitrogen, since it is a nutrient, can cause alterations in the balance of plant and animal life, and can lead to depleted oxygen levels in lakes and streams. Ozone, although beneficial and necessary in the upper atmosphere, is a powerful oxidizing agent which can kill plant and lung tissue.

Since 1 June 2000, standard meteorological measurements as well as NOAA Atmospheric Integrated Research Monitoring Network wet deposition sampling (NOAA/AIRMoN-wet) have been performed. This sampling provides daily analysis of the amount of precipitation as well as characteristics such as pH, conductivity, and a number of ion concentrations. The daily sampling protocol provides higher temporal resolution of precipitation events (many other sites only perform weekly sampling) and allows for more accurate determination of source regions. The AIRMoN-wet network of stations is part of the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP), a larger nationwide network of precipitation monitoring stations.

These two initial measurement systems are the first phase of a comprehensive effort to assess atmospheric pollutant deposition to the Canaan Valley region.

Photo of measurement systems

In 2001 a NOAA/AIRMoN-dry measurement suite,was installed to monitor the deposition of pollutants in the gaseous and particulate phases. This allows the measurement of pollutant deposition through both "wet" and "dry" means, both of which are vital to assessing total deposition, because the relative contributions of each are often nearly equal.

An ultimate goal of the deposition studies is to be able to improve the current models used for predicting atmospheric deposition over various types of land cover, particularly in mountainous regions. Wet deposition by means of rain and snow can be considered more straightforward than dry deposition, since the wet removal process is in large part a function of rainfall and snowfall amounts over any land cover. However, dry deposition is strongly a function of land cover, as well as air pollutant species, and the models which describe this mechanism are complex. Consequently, in part to support the modeling efforts, additional measurement systems, including surface energy balance and surface radiation balance (SURFRAD) instrument suites, are also planned to be deployed in the near future. These systems will act to link land cover characteristics to atmospheric conditions as they relate to pollutant deposition.

Photo of tower

To access meteorological data and a current image from the Canaan Valley air quality research and monitoring site click here.

If there are any questions or comments regarding the atmospheric studies in Canaan Valley, please contact Chris Vogel.

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