KMIT researcher backs Nasa weather mission
Lecturer insists no hidden agenda by US; says 'eminent scientists involved in project will not stake reputations'Nasa's mission to study weather in the Southeast Asia region has nothing to cause worries about security. It is purely science, a Thai researcher told Nation Multimedia Group of publications yesterday.
"I hope that the project is granted permission because it's important and is conducted by the science community. It doesn't have any hidden agenda behind it," said Narisara Thongboonchoo, lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering at King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang who took part in two missions of air experiments of Nasa (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) in Hong Kong and the US.
She showed the plan of the SEAC4RS (Southeast Asia Composition, Cloud, Climate Coupling Regional Study) campaign. The plan clearly showed the names of dozens of famous scientists and researchers from different international agencies who will work in each of the three aircraft and it also underlined their duties, including what they will measure and which methods will be used.
"I'm certain that none of them will risk the reputation that they have accumulated for years to help the US spy on other countries," Narisara said.
"Most of the flights will be over the ocean not land. So, they cannot spy on anything. Regarding the equipment [used in the flight], they just made holes in the planes' windows and on the bottom and top of the aircraft to suck the air from outside and keep in the equipment. They don't have any equipment that can scan areas," she added.
Nasa began its weather experiment project in 1983 in Hawaii. It has also done many similar projects in different parts of the world. Narisara herself took part in the air pollution modelling of two Nasa projects when she was a graduate student at the University of Iowa - Transport and Chemical Evolution over the Pacific (TRACEP) in 2001 in Hong Kong and Intercontinental Chemical Transport Experiment North America (INTEXNA) in the US.
"Regarding concerns about the relationship between Thailand and China, I would say that China had contacted Nasa to ask about the project in Hong Kong. But there was no problem and Nasa was allowed to do the mission there," she said.
Population and economic development are primary drivers for anthropogenic emissions, which are increasing rapidly in Southeast Asia. Strong anthropogenic sources are intermingled with strong biogenic and natural emissions across both terrestrial and marine environments, she said.
Observations will focus specifically on the role of the Asian monsoon circulation and convective redistribution in governing upper atmospheric composition and chemistry.
The operation aims to address key questions about the influence of Asian emissions on clouds, climate and air quality as well as fundamental capacity of satellites to observe the system.
The region has strong gradients in air pollution. But, persistent cirrus, low level clouds coupled with shallow water make it one of the most difficult places on the planet to model or utilise satellite data, so the aircraft mission will help collect the data, she said.
"The data will be available for the public. People can access the data. It's free. The meteorology in the tropical region is very difficult to predict in terms of precipitation and weather. So, if this experiment is allowed to operate, we can measure physical parameters that relate to meteorology. Then, the Thai government can use such useful information to predict the weather. The information will be helpful for the royal rainmaking project. Moreover, the information about air pollution in Southeast Asia and Thailand, especially our eastern seaboard, will be useful for researchers to get a better understanding about what has happened in that region. So, policymakers will know how to mitigate air pollution problems," she said.
Watch the video interview with Narisara at nationmultimedia.com