Category Archives: NOAA ISET

Collaborative, actionable climate change research: How a new global framework is working in Africa

Dr. Fredrick Semazzi of N.C. State University and Dr. Brian Sims of the Department of Psychology

Dr. Fredrick Semazzi of N.C. State University, left, and Dr. Brian Sims of the Department of Psychology talk after Tuesday’s presentation.

Even the best climate data do little good if policy-makers don’t make effective use of them (and you don’t need to look any further than North Carolina for a demonstration). And the best intentions of engaged policy-makers are ineffective if they’re not informed by reliable climate data, which is the situation, for example, in the Horn of Africa.

Climate scientists around the world have some ideas about how to fix those  disconnects.  Dr. Fredrick Semazzi of N.C. State University briefed an interdisciplinary group of N.C. A&T faculty members and students Tuesday on the Global Framework for Climate Services, the main research component of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP).  Semazzi is an internationally prominent climate researcher and member of the Joint Scientific Committee of the WCRP.

One of the global framework’s strategies is to bring together climate researchers and end users, including leaders of government and the private sector.  The key to success is involving end users at the beginning of the process, in defining research questions, Semazzi said.

“You can’t simply do the research and hope that someone finds a use for it,” he said.  “Research needs to be responsive and synchronized with application.”

Researchers have successfully engaged government leaders in Africa, but huge gaps in observation capability on the continent have limited the effectiveness of their work. Now, with $75 million in international funding secured for demonstration projects, the gaps between capabilities and needs are starting to be addressed.  Dr. Semazzi himself is leading a team in developing a hydroclimate project for the critical Lake Victoria Basin region.

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Bililign gives distinguished lecture at UConn on analysis of organic acids from biomass burning

University of Connecticut logoAround the world, forests and grasslands are being cleared for agriculture. Increasingly, the biomass being produced by this clearing is being burned, adding to the atmosphere carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane and other hydrocarbons, nitric oxide, nitrous oxide, organic acids, inorganic acids and atmospheric particulates and aerosols.  This process may be a significant driver of global atmospheric and climate change.

One especially problematic group among these pollutants is gas-phase organic acids, a significant but poorly understood class of volatile organic compounds.  N.C. A&T physics professor Dr. Solomon Bililign is studying these acids in the atmosphere, and that work was the subject of his address at the University of Connecticut last week when he delivered the Norman Hascoe Distinguished Lecture.

Dr. Bililign’s slides are here.  The abstract of his talk:

Study of Vibrational Overtone Induced Dissociation of Organic Acids From Biomass Burning Using Cavity Ring Down Spectroscopic Techniques
Recent information suggests that on the global scale, biomass burning is much more extensive and widespread than previously thought. Biomass burning refers to the burning of the world’s forests and grasslands and agricultural lands following the harvest for land clearing and land conversion. Combustion products of biomass burning include carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, nonmethane hydrocarbons, nitric oxide, nitrous oxide, organic acids, inorganic acids and atmospheric particulates and aerosols. One poorly understood, but significant class of volatile organic compounds (VOC) present in biomass burning is gas-phase organic acids and inorganic. These acids are extremely difficult to measure because of their adsorptive nature. Measurements of a variety of organic acids (e.g. acetic acid, peracetic acid, formic acid, pyruvic acid, glycolic acid) and inorganic acids (HNCO, HONO, HCl, HBr, HNO3) were made in Pasadena, California, during May and June 2010 as part of CalNex 2010. Particulates and aerosols produced during biomass burning impact the radiation budget of the Earth and, hence, impact global climate. It is thought that as much as 90% of global biomass burning is human-initiated and that such burning is increasing with time. Hence, biomass burning may be an important driver for global atmospheric and climatic change.

Work in our laboratory uses two methods, Cavity Ring Down Spectroscopy and Mass Spectrometric methods, to characterize some of the properties of the organic acids and aerosols. The following will be presented in this talk.

(a) Use of cavity ring down spectroscopy to measure absorption cross sections for overtone induced photochemistry (vibrational overtone excitation of an O-H bond in organic acid molecules present in the atmosphere). Overtone excitation has been shown to cause dissociation of molecules leading to OH radical production for several species. Results of for acetic acid and peracetic acid will be presented.

(b) Proposed use of cavity ring down CRD technique to determine the optical properties of aerosols composed of mixtures of different absorbing and non-absorbing species and to determine their complex refractive indices and extinction efficiency and progress in this area will be presented.

From ‘Red Terror’ prison to White House honor

Last week, the White House announced that Dr. Solomon Bililign is one of this year’s recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (as reported here).  Bililign is known at N.C. A&T as a physics professor and director of the NOAA Interdisciplinary Scientific Environmental Technology Cooperative Science Center, but there’s much more to his life.  Today, the Ethiopian-American news web site Tadias profiles him:

“When Physicist Solomon Bililign was a young teacher imprisoned in Ethiopia during the ‘Red Terror’ era, he never imagined that he would one day receive a Presidential Award in the United States.”

Climate sciences academics, research, outreach detailed in NOAA-ISETCSC spring newsletter

The NOAA-ISETCSC newsletter reports on its productive spring semester, including, among many other activities, an academic collaboration with the National Center for Atmospheric Research; eight research papers published, accepted for publication or in press; and a new faculty hire.  Click here for the June 2011 newsletter (PDF).

The Interdisciplinary Scientific Environmental Technology Cooperative Science Center is a consortium led by N.C. A&T.  Partner institutions are California State University, Fresno; City College of the City of New York; Fisk University; North Carolina State University; the University of Alaska Southeast; and the University of Minnesota. The center is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  Its director is Dr. Solomon Bililign, N.C. A&T professor of physics. The NOAA-ISETCSC homepage is here.

Key NOAA official to highlight ISETCSC Day symposium on weather and climate change

One of the top officials of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will be the featured guest next week at the third annual ISETCSC Day symposium addressing weather and climate issues.

Dr. Craig N. McLean, acting assistant administrator for oceanic and atmospheric research, will speak at the lunch session of the daylong event on Friday February 11.  U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., is also invited to speak at the lunch.  The event is organized by the Interdisciplinary Scientific Environmental Technology Cooperative Science Center (ISETCSC) at North Carolina A&T.  The center is funded by NOAA.

McLean is responsible for operation and administration of NOAA’s research enterprise.  He spent 25 years in uniform as a member of NOAA’s Commissioned Officer Corps, which operates 19 ships and 12 aircraft that carry out NOAA’s environmental and scientific mission.  He is an attorney and an accomplished research diver.

Symposium presenters will include researchers from George Mason University, Howard University, Penn State University, and three NOAA labs.

The ISETCSC provides research support to NOAA in such areas as chemical, meteorological, and oceanographic sensors; modeling tools and algorithms for analyzing weather data; and data assimilation, fusion, and mining.  North Carolina A&T is the lead school in the ISETCSC consortium, which includes California State University Fresno, City College of New York, Fisk University, North Carolina State University, the University of Alaska Southeast, and the University of Minnesota.

The day’s events will include research activities for 80 local high school students and tour of labs.

The event will be held in the Alumni-Foundation Event Center.  For more information on the event, go to Information on the NOAA ISETCSC is at

Today’s NOAA ISET distinguished lecture postponed

The lecture by Dr. Ivano Aiello of the Moss Landing Marine Lab, scheduled for this afternoon, has been postponed.  Dr. Aiello’s flight from California was canceled yesterday, and he was unable to get another flight that would get him here before this evening.

The NOAA ISET team will reschedule the lecture.  The title of Dr Ailello’s lecture will be, “Diatom Oozes: Archives of Past Climate Change and Habitats for Microbial Life.” His talk is part of the the 20th annual Distinguished Lecture Series of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, a Washington-based nonprofit that represents 95 leading public and private ocean research education institutions, aquaria and industry to advance research, education and sound ocean policy.

A rich record of past climate change in the diatom ooze on the oceans’ floor

North Carolina A&T has been chosen by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership to host a distinguished lecture.  Dr. Ivano Aiello of the Moss Landing Marine Lab will speak on the remarkable record of past climate change that researchers are examining in layers of fossilized plankton on the ocean floor.  He will speak on Thursday, October 14, 3:30 p.m., in Stallings Ballroom in the Memorial Student Union.

The title of his talk is, “Diatom Oozes: Archives of Past Climate Change and Habitats for Microbial Life.” His talk is part of the consortium’s the 20th annual Distinguished Lecture Series, presented at A&T by the NOAA ISET center.

Abstract for Dr. Aiello’s talk:

Since their appearance in the oceans more than 600 million years ago, planktonic plants and animals have been the largest producers of marine biomass (living matter) and form the base of most marine food webs. For millions of years, layer after layer, the fossilized remains of these tiny yet important creatures have accumulated as sediments on seafloors. Because these organisms thrive on nutrient-rich seawater, their population cycles have played a fundamental role in regulating Earth’s climate. Through oceanic drilling, marine geologists are able to study these sediments to unveil past climate change. Marine diatoms are one of the most important groups of marine microfossils since these tiny algae “bloom” only when both sunlight and nutrients are in abundant supply. Oceanic drilling has unveiled the coupling between climate change and accumulation of diatoms on the west coast of South America, the eastern equatorial Pacific, and in the sub-Arctic waters of the Bering Sea. Oceanic drilling has also shown that deeply buried fossilized remains of marine microfossils are one of the largest and as yet unexplored realms for modern microbial life, suggesting a fascinating link between past climate change and life in extreme environments. Dr. Aiello has sailed on Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) Leg 201 and Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) Expedition 323. He has also served on one of the IODP advisory panels.

Dr. Aiello is an assistant professor at Moss Landing, located on Monterey Bay in California, and San Jose State University.  His current research involves several innovative studies on modern and past biosiliceous and biocalcareous marine sediments. Working with a number of other institutions, he is studying the relationships between deeply buried marine sediments and microbial habitats, global carbon cycles, fluid flow in the continental margins, and life in extreme environments.

The Consortium for Ocean Leadership is a Washington-based nonprofit that represents 95 leading public and private ocean research education institutions, aquaria and industry to advance research, education and sound ocean policy.  The organization also manages ocean research and education programs in areas of scientific ocean drilling, ocean observing, ocean exploration, and ocean partnerships.  More information is available at

NOAA ISET — Aiello talk 2010-10-14 (PDF)