Monday, January 11, 2016



Media Contact:

Stephanie Zerweck

Communications Specialist



WASHINGTON (January 9, 2016)–A NOAA expedition with team members from Howard University has returned to the United States after a month aboard the NATO Ship Alliance off the coast of the Canary Islands, Spain, studying atmospheric and oceanographic conditions that may affect weather and environmental health. 


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration team embarked from Las Palmas, Spain, and spent Nov. 15-Dec. 15, 2015, on the vessel conducting scientific field work for AEROSE before returning to the U.S. on Dec. 17.


AEROSE, the Saharan Dust Aerosols and Ocean Science Expeditions, are an internationally recognized series of field campaigns designed to explore African air mass outflows and their impact on climate, weather and environmental health.  The project began with a dedicated cruise in 2004 and has been conducted annually since 2006 to generate the most comprehensive data set of complementary atmospheric measurement and oceanographic observations aimed at characterizing the impact and microphysical evolution of atmospheric aerosols of African origin. Researchers pay particular attention to Saharan dust aerosols that are transported across the Atlantic Ocean.


Scientific activities aboard the ship included continuous observations of the atmospheric chemistry and physics, launches of balloon-borne instrumentation, sampling of the air and airborne particulate originating from the Sahara Desert, sampling and measurement of the ocean, and physical retrieval and replacement of oceanographic science buoys along the way.  Observations intercepted air masses emanating from West Africa that were expected to be rich in Saharan dust and particulate from biomass fires, which can strongly influence the chemistry of the atmosphere.


“Field measurements provide unique value to the nation's predictive models for weather, climate, and environment, as well as provide validation for s‎pace-based measurements,” said Vernon Morris, Ph.D., the mission’s principal investigator.


 “This campaign, AEROSE, is particularly unique in its region of interest (remote tropical Atlantic), duration (tenth year) and multidisciplinary nature (atmosphere and ocean). It is the most comprehensive suite of measurements providing insight into long-range mineral dust transport and its influence on sea surface temperature, atmospheric radiation, atmospheric chemistry and the diversity of microbial exchange between continent and ocean,” he added.


In addition to Dr. Morris, team members included:  NOAA NESDIS Senior Research Scientist Nicholas (Nick) Nalli, Ph.D.; meteorologist Sarah Sammy; Howard University Atmospheric Sciences student Kafayat Olayinka; Howard University Analytical Chemistry alumna Ebony Roper, Ph.D., and newly-graduated Howard University Atmospheric Sciences student Mayra Oyola, Ph.D.


For Oyola, a native of Guaynabo, Puerto Rice, embarking on the voyage was a continuation of five years and more than 150 days at sea on previous missions and of the events that actually led her to Howard University.


“AEROSE has been a life-changing experience, both personally and professionally,” said Oyola.“I participated [in] my first campaign in 2010, right after completing my undergraduate degree in physics from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez. I was considering attending graduate school, but was still unsure.


“All doubts were dissipated as the NOAA R/V Ronald H. Brown headed towards the tropical Atlantic Ocean,” Oyola said. “I was not seasick, but science smitten. I instantly fell in love with field research, met my academic adviser and identified my dissertation topic.”


For more information on AEROSE and associated Howard University research programs, visit: