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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
During this quarter, the project team obtained daily aerosol remote sensing observations over Egypt from NASA’s Multi-angle Imaging Spectro-Radiometer (MISR) for the period of January 1 2003 to December 31 2014. The team was able to characterize the different types of aerosols over Egypt, particularly the five cities under investigation, and identified the severe air pollution events during study years. The entire data set obtained was extracted in four spectral bands: blue (446 nm), green (558 nm), red (672 nm) and near infrared (866 nm). Data visualization was then performed using in-house developed scripts.

In the previous quarter, selected MODIS aerosol parameters were downloaded over Egypt. Only one orbit was selected to represent the daily data and the team decided to change the approach in this period by combining all available overpasses from the same day into one daily coverage map. Daily maps were produced for the January 1, 2003 to December 31 2014 period. Multiple established conclusions were confirmed (e.g. the highest AOD is demonstrated in the spring and summer and lowest AOD in winter months), and new discoveries were made (e.g. the sharp contrast and sudden change of AOD between the populated Nile Delta and the bordering deserts). Remarkably low AOD (in all seasons) was also identified in modern urban regions such as Sadat City at the border between the Nile Delta and the Western Desert. Analysis also revealed climatic driven aerosol events (e.g. high AOD of wind-driven sea salt aerosols over Alexandria).

The project also held an educational and outreach workshop at the Library of Alexandria at the end of July to introduce the activity workbook developed for K-12 students and teachers. Presentations and training sessions were made by the project team and the workshop allowed greater dissemination and visibility of the project and its educational components in Egypt’s second largest city of Alexandria.


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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