To Breathe, Or Not to Breathe

Project Team: North America Health & Air Quality Team
Team Location: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

Temperature inversion conditions (orange and red areas) on 2014, calculated from AIRS data mapped on a global scale.

Temperature inversion conditions (orange and red areas) on 2014, calculated from AIRS data mapped on a global scale. Image Credit: North America Health & Air Quality Team

Amanda Schochet, Project Lead (University of California, San Diego)
Julie Sanchez (California State Polytechnic University, Pomona)
Mark Barker (California State University, Northridge)

Tom Pagano (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
Sharon Ray (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
Dr. Bjorn Lambrigtsen (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
Dr. Eric Fetzer (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
Dr. Evan Fishbein (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
Dr. Brian Kahn (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
Dr. Sun Wong (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Large cities and urbanized areas tend to have significant air pollution problems. While it is known to the average citizen that most cars and factories are a source of these pollutants, very few know about the hidden atmospheric phenomena that concentrate this pollution. Two of the most significant pollution-focusing processes are temperature inversions and zone intrusions. Temperature inversions prevent vertical atmospheric mixing, which leads to higher concentrations of aerosol pollution at a given locale. Higher concentrations of atmospheric pollutants that accompany temperature inversions lead to acute respiratory problems for sensitive individuals. Stratospheric ozone intrusions result in high ozone levels in the troposphere, which can damage lung tissue and cause other respiratory problems, as well as vegetation damage. This study focused on areas within North America with known high levels of pollution, such as Los Angeles, California and Hamilton, Ontario. Level 2 and Level 3 products from Aqua’s Atmospheric InfraRed Sounder (AIRS) Version 6 were used to investigate temperature inversions and ozone intrusions in North America. By processing AIRS data in ArcMap, and increasing spatial resolution with local radiosondes and data from Aqua’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), maps were developed highlighting areas that can potentially be hazardous to human health. The analysis incorporated previously studied temperature inversion factors such as the weekend effect and seasonal variations. The resulting maps were designed to be simple and easily accessible to the general public while maintaining information that is relevant to health and policy decision-makers to improve air quality management and monitoring capabilities.



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