Thirty Years Down and a Century to Go!
A Narrative History of the Origins and Early History of the
National Atmospheric Deposition Program

Ellis B. Cowling
University Distinguished Professor At-Large Emeritus
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, North Carolina 27607

In 1947, Hans Egner, Professor of Horticulture at the Agricultural College near Uppsala, Sweden began the first regional program of research on the chemistry of precipitation and discovered that an accurate mass balance for growth and development of plants could not be calculated without considering the amounts of essential nutrients in precipitation. Egner’s original network grew into an international program called the European Air Chemistry Network. Data from this Network provided important parts of the basis for Svante Odén’s assertion in 1967 about an “insidious chemical warfare among the nation’s of Europe” and Bert Bolin’s publication “Sulfur in Air and Precipitation – Sweden’s Case Study Contribution to the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment.”

Stimulated by these advances in scientific understanding about human-induced changes in the chemical climate of the Earth and impacts on crops, forests, and aquatic ecosystems, the US Forest Service organized the “First International Symposium on Acid Precipitation and the Forest Ecosystem.” The major recommendation from this Symposium was “establishment of a permanent network of precipitation chemistry monitoring stations throughout the United States.” On December 5, 1975, the idea of using the Regional Project system of State Agricultural Experiment Stations as the framework for a long-term, multi-agency network of precipitation chemistry monitoring sites was proposed and became known as the National Atmospheric Deposition Program.

Major achievements of NADP include:

  1. Building and maintaining for 30 years, a uniquely successful partnership among many disparate federal, state, industrial, and university research communities.
  2. Developing a high quality environmental database that is trusted by both scientific and policy leaders throughout North America and around the world.
  3. Achieving a remarkable degree of personal and professional satisfaction through collaboration and cooperation among atmospheric, agricultural, forest, aquatic, and other natural resource scientists on a continental scale.
  4. Maintaining a single Central Analytical Laboratory within the Illinois State Water Survey.
  5. Maintaining cooperation with the Canadian CANSAP and CAPMoN networks.
  6. Certification of network-wide QA/QC through site visits by EPA and the World Meteorological Organization.
  7. Periodic peer reviews of NADP.
  8. Special studies of atmospheric transport and deposition of pesticides and heavy metals and creation of NADP's Mercury Deposition Network (MDN) and Atmospheric Integrated Research Monitoring, Network (AIRMoN).
  9. Using the Internet to disseminate NADP data and information.
  10. Publishing isopleth maps showing spatial and temporal gradients in deposition of major nutrient cations and anions.
  11. Learning to survive periodic budget crises and major changes in personnel.
  12. Demonstrating that Title IV of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 is working.