asfdesert1.jpg
Atmospheric scientist Cathy Cahill points to two
recent air samples from Baghdad, one showing
dust and the other fine trapped particles from
burned diesel fuel. Photo by Ned Rozell

This column is provided as a public service by the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, in cooperation with the UAF research community. Ned Rozell is a science writer at the institute.

Cathy Cahill got a package in the mail last week from a desert on the other side of the world. She didn’t know what was inside, but she hoped it was air samples from Baghdad. When she opened the package, she didn’t believe her eyes.

“I’ve never seen that much dust (on a slide used for air sampling),” she said. “There’s so much that it’s flaking off.”

Cahill, who works at the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, studies air quality in Alaska and all over the world. In November, Pam Clark of the U.S. Army Research Lab in Adelphi, Maryland, asked Cahill if she could deploy a few air samplers at Army camps in Iraq, as part of an Army program to study the air in places where military members are stationed.

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