NASA selects U of M’s Dylan Millet to lead atmospheric chemistry data project

July 31, 2023

The five-year project will focus on biogenic volatile organic compounds and their interactions with the atmosphere. 

The NASA Earth Science Program recently selected Dylan Millet, faculty member in the Department of Soil, Water, and Climate, to lead the creation of a unified, decadal scale record for reactive biosphere-atmosphere exchange as part of the Making Earth System Data Records for Use in Research Environments (MEaSUREs) Program. This record will lead to a better understanding of important atmospheric gasses and their impacts on Earth’s climate. The five-year project will be a collaboration between Millet’s atmospheric chemistry group, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

The research study focuses on the organic compounds isoprene and methanol, as well as their byproduct formaldehyde, which occur naturally in the environment. These molecules are the most abundant of a class of compounds known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and have significant impacts on air quality and climate across a wide range of environments. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has identified such VOCs as a key source of uncertainty in global climate models in their most recent report.

When completed, the resulting record for reactive biosphere-atmosphere exchange will be an open access data product that other researchers can use to further our understanding of biogenic VOCs. It can be applied as an input or validation tool for climate models, and as an assessment of natural and human-caused variability and change in the Earth system.