November 4, 2004
NDSU Monitors Ultraviolet-B Radiation
North Dakota State University has become the 34th site in the United States to monitor the amount of ultraviolet radiation received from the sun. Ultraviolet radiation, often called UV-B radiation, is that part of the sun’s spectrum that causes sunburn, but it can also cause some types of skin cancer and has been linked to damage of crops, marine organisms and some materials.
Interest in UV-B grew when an ozone hole was discovered over Antarctica. Since ozone absorbs much of the harmful UV-B radiation as it passes through the atmosphere, scientists began more extensive monitoring for UV-B radiation.
The NDSU Microclimatic Research Station on campus is the monitoring site. It was chosen by the USDA UV-B Monitoring and Research Program at Colorado State University. The site will be maintained by John Enz, NDSU agriculture climatologist. It became operational Nov. 1.
The monitoring program was initiated in 1992 to provide information on the geographical distribution and trends of UV-B radiation in the United States. “The information is necessary to assess the potential impacts of increasing ultraviolet radiation levels on crops and forests,” Enz says.
The monitoring program:
“The monitoring program supports research that increases our understanding of the factors controlling surface UV-B and provides the data necessary for assessing the impact of UV-B radiation on human health, ecosystems and materials,” Enz says.
The program has two networks, research and climatological. The research network has state-of-the-art equipment at six sites where collaborative research allows cross-disciplinary use of the data. The climatological network requires less sophisticated instrumentation and will eventually total 35 to 40 monitoring stations.
The data collected will have other uses as well, notes Enz. “Researchers will be able to use commercial software along with the site data to make state-of-the-art atmospheric corrections for any remote sensing imagery (plane or satellite) of crops and forests. This should be valuable for remote sensing and precision-agriculture scientists and entrepreneurs.”