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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 the first three months of 2014, the team focused on three sets of data for analysis: the MODIS (MODerate resolution Imaging Spectro-radiometer) satellite, the MISR (Multi-angle Imaging Spectro-Radiometer) satellite, and the AERONET (AErosol RObotic NETwork) ground-based system. Data from these arrays are being cross-correlated and analyzed using StatGraphics, Dataplore, and Matlab in a time-series analysis over a 10-year period. The team is using the data to analyze aerosol particle size and distribution to determine the effects of atmospheric aerosols on climate and air quality. The relationship between the size of the aerosol particles and the wavelength dependence of the extinction coefficient is being investigated from the available satellite remote sensing data at multiple wavelengths.
 
The project is developing a significant outreach component, including sponsorship of a science fair competition for primary, middle, and high schools as well as the national boys and girls STEM schools. Some 200 students participated in the fair, which was held on March 19 and 29 as part of the 5th Annual Cairo Science Festival. The projects showcased included environmental and climate science displays and demonstrations. The competition results and an awards ceremony will take place in late May 2014. In addition, students in a project-linked course at American University in Cairo have been working this spring on a public awareness campaign designed to improve basic understanding of the atmosphere and air quality, ozone depletion, and the effects of human activity. Students are being asked to choose a topic and prepare an animated presentation or video clip. The projects are expected to be completed by the end of the spring semester.

Egypt Partnership Picture B
The opening of the 5th Annual Cairo Science Festival filled Ewart Hall at the AUC campus (Photo courtesy Dr. Ibrahim).

Egypt Partnership Picture C
A student at the science fair shows her findings on moringa seeds (Photo courtesy Dr. Ibrahim).

 
In the next few months, members of the project team will present preliminary results at the 7th ICTP Workshop on the Theory and Use of Regional Climate Models in Trieste, Italy. In addition, members of the research team will consult with NASA experts on satellite detection of aerosols, and a visit is planned for July and August to the University of Michigan and Boston University. The remote sensing component will be concluded by the end of 2014, allowing for global assessment of both the distribution and kinds of aerosols found in the atmosphere around Egypt’s urban centers. The results will be presented to the government of Egypt and stakeholders in the industrial and agriculture sectors, with the hope that they will work to regulate the practices that lead to aerosol emissions that result in poor air quality and deteriorating public health.
 
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