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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 2 (2012 Deadline)

The impact of biogenic and anthropogenic atmospheric aerosols to climate in Egypt

PI: Alaa Ibrahim (American University in Cairo)
U.S. Partner: Allison Steiner (University of Michigan)
Project Dates: August 2013 to July 2016

Egypt Partnership Picture A

PhD student Ms. Yasmin Aboel Fetouh and Dr. Alaa Ibrahim discussing Earth Observation Satellite data at the American University in Cairo (Photo courtesy Dr. Ibrahim).
Atmospheric aerosols are liquid or solid particles suspended in the atmosphere. Often observable as dust, smoke, and haze, they are ubiquitous in the air. Aerosols come from natural sources (biogenic), arising mainly from plant debris, mineral and humic matter, and microbial particles, and manmade sources (anthropogenic), arising primarily from a variety of combustion sources. They affect the Earth’s energy budget and climate by scattering and absorbing radiation; modifying amounts and microphysical and radiative properties of clouds; and altering the intensity of sunlight scattered back to space, absorbed in the atmosphere, and arriving at the surface. Atmospheric aerosols represent a key uncertainty in the understanding of the climate system and climate change. While anthropogenic aerosols have been the dominant focus of climate studies, biogenic aerosols can contribute up to 30% of the total aerosol volume and could be more significant in densely vegetated regions. Burning of agriculture byproducts (such as rice straw in the Nile Delta) increases the aerosol loading in the atmosphere even further and together with other biogenic and anthropogenic aerosols would almost certainly impact the climate dynamics and air quality. Despite observable high concentrations of aerosols in the metropolitan Cairo area, little is known about the composition and spatial distribution of aerosols in 
Egypt and their influence on the climate and climate change. This project will tackle the issue of  atmospheric aerosols through providing a national survey of aerosol sources in Egypt, assessing their impact to climate, climate change, and public health.
 
The project will build human capacity through hiring and training junior researchers in collaboration with the U.S. collaborator. The resultant national survey of aerosol particles in Egypt and their impact to climate, climate change, and public health are directly related to developmental issues in Egypt, particularly in megacities like Cairo and in other industrialized and agriculture areas throughout the country. The project's educational and outreach component will enhance the formal and informal educational curricula covering climate and climate change and their broad impacts through programs that target teachers, school students, and the general public. Special efforts will be made to streamline and communicate the research findings and recommendations as well as the educational and outreach initiatives to stakeholders among legislators, local authorities, and government officials so they shape informed policies.
 
 
Summary of Recent Activities
 
 
In this reporting period the project team completed a decadal survey of atmospheric aerosols over Egypt, covering the entire country as well as major Egyptian cities, an important milestone of the project. This is a timely investigation as Egypt has been ranked number 9 worldwide in the mean annual concentration of PM10 (WHO, 2014). Utilizing the daily aerosol optical depth (AOD) data from NASA’s MODIS Spectroradiometer the team studied the AOD spatio-temporal variations over a twelve-year record (2003 to 2014) in five selected urban sites and two distinct geographic regions. The sites were characterized by different human and industrial activities and the regions by different landscape and meteorological attributes. Arranged from north to south the cities include Alexandria, Cairo, Asyut, Hurghada and Aswan. The two regions are Western Desert and Nile Delta. The five selected cities cover the aerosol level and scenario in relation to the trait of each city. The aerosol data provide clues on the effects of the demographic variation and growth on its anthropogenic pollution. A key observation was the absence of any apparent trend of AOD during the examined period. However, the expected annual cycle of AOD, with peaks in the spring and early summer (between 0.4 and 0.5) and troughs in early winter (less than 0.20) is visible. This cycle has been confirmed in previous studies with values comparable to the aforementioned values. The peaks are triggered by dust storms originating from the Western Desert in April, while the troughs are associated with minimum water vapor column observed during September through November. The cyclic pattern of AOD supports the idea of treating the overall pollution over Egypt as a regional-driven, weather-related phenomenon superimposed on local episodes. The survey offers a valuable resource for investigating air quality and the climate impact of aerosols over Egypt and North Africa.

Progress was also made on the educational and outreach components through the introduction of a new second science course and the release of the Arabic version of the educational video "Blue Skies Again". The second course titled "Earth's Changing Atmosphere: Science, Technology, and Policy" was introduced by the PI and is currently being taught to 20 engineering and business students. A number of environmental awareness videos were produced during the fall 2014 semester by the students of the course and are available below. The Arabic version of the project outreach and educational video "Blue Sky Again" has been shared with schools and over social media while the classroom activity booklets for school students have been completed and are being shared with school teachers.

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2-239_Y1Q3_Minister of Education at the August 12, 2014 award ceremony

ESOF during the session “What environment is required to fulfill the role of a scientist” organized by the Global Young Academy (Photo courtesy Dr. Ibrahim). Minister of Education at the August 12, 2014 award ceremony of the Schools Science Fair held during the 5th annual Cairo Science Festival and
Egypt’s first National Science Month (Photo courtesy Dr. Ibrahim).
 
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