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A Half Century of Air Quality Data

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The longest running air sampling in the history of mankind is being analyzed at Clarkson University.

Nuclear weapons testing by the Soviets raised concerns about radiation drifting south and affecting Finland. So, each week for 47 years, the Finnish Meteorological Institute sampled air quality near the Arctic. An ongoing collaboration with Bayard D. Clarkson Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Philip K. Hopke brought the massive stockpile of air filters here.

Poring over the 2400 woven glass filters, CU grad and research assistant James Laing says he’s seen a steady decline in the amount of lead in the air.

“It corresponds to the bans lots of countries imposed on leaded gasoline.”

He says the information from the Finnish air sampling can tell us much more.

“Data on black carbon and sulfate concentrations will be plugged into climate models and make them more accurate. Climatic conditions have changed a lot faster in the Arctic than global models predicted. Now that we have so much information about a 47-year stretch of the 20th Century, we can create modeling that can more accurately understand the changes that have taken place in the Arctic.”
james laing