Mobile Air Quality Laboratory - University of Houston
Skip to main content

Mobile Air Quality Laboratory

University of Houston Mobile Air Laboratory Projects

Measuring Sulfur Dioxide for Environmental Studies

NASA SO2 and Ozone Water-Land Environmental Transition Study

University of Houston participated in the SO2 and Ozone Water-Land Environmental Transition Study (SOWLETS) in June 2023. The SOWLETS campaign is a NASA campaign involving UH and St. Edward’s University to launch our sulfur dioxide (SO2) sondes (instruments attached to balloons) to validate the new SO2 measurement capabilities of the Langley Mobile Ozone Lidar in Hampton, Virginia. This project measured SO2 emissions from a nearby power plant. Vertical profiles of SO2 from the balloon-based measurements were compared to those from the lidar system. Other supporting measurements included NASA Pandoras and other measurements at the CAPABLE site at NASA Langley, as well as other academic participants. The UH mobile lab supported this project by helping to locate the plume of air pollution and serving as a second measurement location and base of operations while in the field.

NASA Student Airborne Research Platform (SARP) East

During this same period, the UH mobile lab, along with colleagues from Baylor University and St. Edward’s, participated in the Student Airborne Research Program’s east coast campaign, the first time the program was held outside of California. SARP is a NASA program geared toward providing high quality research experiences for undergraduate students. In this eight-week program, students worked together in groups and on individual research projects on airborne platforms such as the DC-8, P-3, and B-200 alongside research scientists from numerous federal and academic institutions. When not flying, students had the opportunity to participate in other research experiences, including in the new UH mobile air quality laboratory. Other UH researchers flew on the B-200 operating a complex payload of research instruments from UH, NASA Langley, and NASA Goddard while instructing and giving hands-on experiences to SARP students.

Understanding the Causes of Ozone and Particulate Matter

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Mobile and Offshore Air Quality Monitoring

This project collects air quality and supporting measurements in and around the Houston area, Galveston Bay, and adjacent coastal waters in the Gulf of Mexico. These data will aid the TCEQ in efforts to inform implementation plans to improve air quality in the region. To accomplish these goals UH, Baylor University, St. Edward’s University, and Texas A&M University deploy instrumentation on a variety of research platforms, including the new mobile air quality lab, a research boat, drones, and balloons. Each platform carries a combination of measurements to characterize the chemical (e.g., ozone, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds), particle, and physical properties, like temperature, pressure, humidity, and winds.

Atmospheric Research Boat

While the new mobile air quality lab was deployed in June for SOWLETS and SARP, this marked the first deployment of the new atmospheric research boat, which collects detailed measurements over Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to drawing air samples into the boat for real-time analysis, the boat also carries remote-sensing instruments and launches instrumented balloons to examine conditions overhead. Some of these techniques can be used to support data validation of satellites like NASA’s TEMPO mission, which launched in April 2023. Together, these observations will help lead to a better understanding of the causes of ozone and particulate matter in Houston and surrounding areas.