NPS Profile: Towers & Equipment

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Russell Paulk at Look Rock Tower.

Russell Paulk at Look Rock.

NPS photo.

Look Rock - holds the park’s IMPROVE monitoring station, in addition to many other air quality monitoring instruments. IMPROVE stands for Interagency Monitoring of PROtected Visual Environments, and measures both the amount and chemical composition of particulate matter. After knowing these measurements, the park can determine how much pollution particles scatter light, a major determinant of the haze.

The Look Rock station also collects measurements of ozone, sulfur dioxide, sulfate, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, nitrogen dioxide, wind speed & direction, temperature, humidity, precipitation, solar radiation, continuous PM 2.5, and black carbon.

See the live WebCam view from Look Rock.

Elkmont low elevation monitoring station.

Elkmont monitoring station

NPS photo.

Elkmont – water bottles collect samples that go to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. That lab tests the water for calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, acid, and pH levels, in addition to other metals. Data from this site is added to the National Atmospheric Deposition Program. Samples of precipitation (rain, condensed fog, and melted snow) are sent to Seattle, where a lab tells the park the concentration of mercury in a month’s precipitation. (In June, 2009, for example, we had 8.3 ng of mercury per liter of water.)In the photo to the left you can see a funnel at the top that collects rain and snow, which run into a collection jar inside the metal box.

Cades Cove – a small tower collects ozone, wind speed & direction, temperature, humidity, solar radiation, and precipitation information.
Clingmans Dome air quality and radio towers.

Clingmans Dome.

NPS photos.

Clingmans Dome – collects ozone, wind speed & direction, temperature, humidity, solar radiation, and precipitation measurements. Also serves as the highest elevation monitoring station for cloudwater (condensed fog), which are tested for acidity levels. As at Elkmont, a mercury station also collects precipitation that will be sent to a lab in Seattle for high elevation monitoring.

Purchase Knob – collects ozone, wind speed & direction, temperature, humidity, and precipitation amounts.

See the live WebCam view from Purchase Knob.

Looking down into Cove Mountain Tower.

Cove Mountain.

NPS photo.

Cove Mountain Tower - collects ozone (O3), sulfur dioxide (SO2), wind speed & direction, temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, & precipitation amount.

Over time, the snapshots of conditions on individual days add up to a very valuable long-term data set. Scientists look at these trends to determine if acid deposition is getting worse over time, and to compare our views now with those a decade ago.

See air quality in different National Parks at the national WebCams page.

And watch podcasts on the National Park Service Air Web page.

Return to Dispatches from the Field: Issue 5 main page.

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