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Home | Tag Archives: NOAA

Tag Archives: NOAA

UTEP Dust Expert Collaborates on National Research on Dust Storms, Valley Fever

People living in the American Southwest have experienced a dramatic increase in windblown dust storms in the last two decades, likely driven by large-scale changes in sea surface temperature in the Pacific Ocean drying the region’s soil, according to new research led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

With the increase in dust storms, scientists also have documented a spike in valley fever, an infectious disease caught by inhaling a soil-dwelling fungus found primarily in the Southwest.

“We’ve known for some time that the Southwest U.S. is becoming drier,” said lead author Daniel Tong, a scientist at NOAA’s Air Resources Laboratory and George Mason University. “Dust storms in the region have more than doubled between the 1990s and the 2000s. And we see that valley fever is increasing in the same region.”

Thomas Gill, Ph.D., UTEP
Thomas Gill, Ph.D., UTEP

“Valley fever is an under-recognized but serious infectious disease in the Southwest, including El Paso,” said Thomas Gill, Ph.D., UTEP professor of geological sciences and environmental science and engineering and study collaborator. “Although the factors which cause valley fever outbreaks are complex, this research shows that dust and climate clearly play a role in its occurrence. By showing that large-scale climate factors such as sea surface temperature can start a chain reaction through drought to dust storms, it can be used as a tool for advance surveillance of potential health and safety impacts. There’s already evidence that diseases in other parts of the world, such as meningitis and Kawasaki disease, may be related to wind transport: valley fever in [the] Southwest … also has to be on the list,” he said.

The new research is the first to be based on a long-term data record NOAA is developing to track the history of dust storms in the United States.

“Over time, analyzing the data will help us better predict dust storm patterns and answer the question of whether increased dust storms are a natural variation or could precipitate a larger shift in the area to desert,” Tong said.

Better prediction of dust storms can help the agriculture, aviation and transportation industries, as well as healthcare. Dust storms not only carry the fungus that can cause valley fever, but also can severely damage aircraft engines, disrupt land transportation and erode and damage farms already hit by drought.

NOAA Grants Help Two UTEP Teams Mold Future Leaders in Earth and Environmental Science

Two groups of UTEP researchers are leading local efforts that are part of a national movement to increase the number of minorities graduating with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees and making a difference in solving real-world environmental problems through research.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Education awarded a total of $11.9 million in grants to four lead minority-serving institutions across the country. These institutions partnered with 24 other schools to establish four cooperative science centers. UTEP is included in two of those cohorts and will receive more than $1.4 million over five years.

Funds will be used to educate and graduate students who pursue degree programs with applied research in NOAA mission-related scientific fields. The centers will train students in earth system sciences and remote sensing technology, coastal and marine ecosystems, living marine resources, and atmospheric sciences and meteorology – all core science fields for NOAA.

“The excitement and true value of these programs provides students with an opportunity to help NOAA solve real-world problems in the realms of earth sciences and environmental intelligence,” said Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., NOAA administrator.

Miguel Velez-Reyes, Ph.D., professor and department chair in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UTEP, and Craig Tweedie, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and director of the Environmental Science and Engineering Program, are leading a UTEP team alongside partners at City College of New York (lead institution), Hampton University, University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, University of Maryland – Baltimore County, and San Diego State University as part of the Center for Earth Systems Sciences and Remote Sensing Technologies (CREST).

“NOAA CREST provides UTEP undergraduate students a unique opportunity by engaging in education and training in NOAA mission science, which focus on earth system sciences and remote sensing technologies,” said Miguel Velez-Reyes, Ph.D., UTEP NOAA CREST campus director. “Students not only build core competency in research and curriculum, but also gain hands-on research experience. Students benefit from a synergistic collaboration between federal, academia and private sectors that CREST brings to its partner institutions. CREST also provides internships in NOAA facilities that enhance students’ technical skill sets to make them job-ready.”

Rosa Fitzgerald, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Physics, with the participation of Tom Gill, Ph.D., professor of geological sciences, and William Stockwell, Ph.D., research professor from the Department of Physics, are working with the NOAA Center for Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology (NCAS-M) with colleagues from Howard University (lead institution), Jackson State University, Pennsylvania State University, San Jose State University, State University of New York at Albany, University of Maryland – Baltimore County, University of Maryland – College Park, and University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez.

“The primary goals for this award are to perform innovative research in atmospheric sciences and to produce a diverse and highly skilled cadre of scientists and environmentally literate professionals who will help shape the nation’s future by using a comprehensive understanding of the role of the atmosphere in the global ecosystem,” Fitzgerald said.

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