Clearing the Air: Aerosol Estimates in the Coastal United States

Category: Assessing Air Quality & Water Resources
Project Team: Coastal US Health & Air Quality
Team Location: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Centers for Environmental Information – Asheville, North Carolina

The Aqua and Terra MODIS mean July Aerosol Optical Depth for 2000-2015 demonstrates elevated aerosol levels (in pink) emitted from Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii. Image Credit: Coastal US Health & Air Quality Team

The Aqua and Terra MODIS mean July Aerosol Optical Depth for 2000-2015 demonstrates elevated aerosol levels (in pink) emitted from Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii.
Image Credit: Coastal US Health & Air Quality Team

Authors:
Christie Stevens
Toni Strauch
Alec Courtright

Mentors/Advisors:
Annette Hollingshead (Global Science & Technology, Inc.)
DeWayne Cecil (Global Science & Technology, Inc.)
Jesse Bell (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Past/Other Contributors:
Alec Courtright (Center Lead)

Abstract:

Outdoor air pollution can have severe impacts on human health, endangering the lives of vulnerable children and adults. Particulate matter (PM) air pollution is particularly hazardous, contributing to an estimated 800,000 premature deaths every year, as recorded by the World Health Organization (WHO). U.S. agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have an increasing need to provide accurate air quality assessments to properly mitigate adverse health effects. The EPA monitors air quality levels for the United States with AirNow, an online tool that uses in situ data to calculate an Air Quality Index (AQI) for real-time updates and forecasts in air quality. This product allows for reliable air quality estimates but is limited to the specific location of monitoring stations and terrestrial regions within the contiguous United States. Though current projections estimate that about 48 percent of the U.S. population will live in coastal regions by the year 2020, there is no long-term record of air quality measurements for the coastal United States. This project will use the NASA Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Aerosol Optical Thickness (AOT) datasets to create a long-term analysis of Hawaii and coastal Florida air quality from January 1981 to December 2015. This analysis will be used to identify anomalous months, seasons, and other periods as well as identify trends in aerosol concentrations and patterns. Satellite and ground station data verification will provide statistical and quantitative support for incorporating satellite data into both the EPA’s and CDC’s current air quality reporting efforts and further serve managers’ needs by building the foundation for a comprehensive air quality tool.

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