updated 1/19/2006 9:59:21 PM ET 2006-01-20T02:59:21

NASA scientists said Thursday they have launched a new study on climate change using a special aircraft that will enter the high troposphere — the lowest level of the earth’s atmosphere — in the tropics.

Paul Newman, one of the NASA project’s coordinators, said the researchers will look at atmospheric contamination and how the ozone layer is changing.

The $8 million project involves 140 scientists from the United States and 30 from Costa Rica, Newman told a news conference in San Jose. The study, conducted from a NASA office at the San Jose airport, started Jan. 14 and will end Feb. 12.

During that time, the WB-57F plane will make 12 trips into the high tropical troposphere, which has barely been studied and is believed to have suffered the largest impact from climate change, officials said.

The plane can fly at an altitude of 60,000 feet and has 29 instruments to measure atmospheric conditions.

NASA scientist Eric Jensen said the agency is also interested in investigating the properties of clouds at high altitude, which are thin and have temperatures as low as 194 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (-126 degrees Celsius).

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