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U-Tapao

Nasa project would help us : Gistda

Thailand will enjoy many benefits from allowing Nasa, the US space agency, to use the U-Tapao airbase to conduct extensive climate research, a top official at the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (Gistda) said yesterday.

"We will understand weather conditions better and be able to make more accurate forecasts," said Chawalit Silapathong, director of Gistda's Geo-Informatics Centre.

The imaging quality provided by Thailand's Theos satellites would also improve, he said.

"By granting permission to Nasa, Thailand will also prove its commitment to climate research under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change," he pointed out.

Chawalit said a number of Thai researchers would participate in the project. They would come from respected organisations such as Gistda, Chulalongkorn University, the Meteorological Department, Silpakorn University, the Hydrographic Department and |the Bureau of Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation.

Nasa, the US National Aeronau-tics and Space Administration, has been planning to base its Southeast Asia Composition, Cloud, Climate Coupling Regional Study (SEAC4RS) at U-Tapao.

If Thailand approves use of the airport the project will go ahead in August and September.

The operation aims to address key questions about the influence of Asian emissions on clouds, climate and air quality as well as fundamental capacity of satellites to observe the system.

Science observations will focus specifically on the role of the Asian monsoon circulation and convective redistribution in governing upper atmospheric composition and chemistry.

Attention will also be given to the influence of biomass burning and pollution, their temporal evolution, and ultimately the impacts on meteorological processes, which in turn feed back into regional air quality. With respect to meteorological feedback, the opportunity to examine the impact of polluting aerosols on cloud properties and ultimately dynamics will be of particular interest.

"The information from this project will be more detailed than what we have had," Chawalit said.

In response to concerns that the US may be planning to abuse the project for security purposes, Chawalit said a committee would be established to examine all equipment brought in.

"We will ensure that the equipment is for use in climate research only," he said. "A Thai official will always be present on an aircraft deployed by Nasa here."

According to him, Nasa will deploy three aircraft for this project, while Thailand's Royal Bureau of Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation will provide another.

Chawalit said the project's survey mission would also cover Singapore and Cambodia.

He said Thailand had worked with Nasa before to conduct ground-level surveys. "It's just that we have never made detailed aerial surveys," he said.


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