Pacific Southwest, Region 9
Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations
Using Technology to Assess Air Quality in the San Joaquin Valley
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It may sound like fiction - NASA pilots, EPA scientists, lidar instruments, and an airplane flying back and forth over the San Joaquin Valley - but it is a fact.
Last week, in an effort to better understand how particulate matter pollution is formed, EPA teamed up with NASA scientists to bring advanced monitoring technology to the valley.
Air pollution is easily trapped inside a valley and the San Joaquin Valley is long, low, and surrounded by mountains on three sides. The recent population boom, busy highways, and other sources of pollution have combined with the natural topography to create some of the highest concentrations of fine particulate pollution in the country. Improving the valley’s air for the 3.3 million people who live there is a priority for EPA.
The plane that flew over the valley was equipped with lidar, an advanced monitoring instrument from NASA that makes unique aerosol (particulate matter) measurements. These measurements give a downward snapshot of the entire aerosol that is in the atmosphere. (See the graphic below.) The measurements are useful for assessing the sources and transport of the aerosol.
The data gathered during the flights can help us better understand the underlying science of particulate matter pollution and help the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District develop more informed air quality plans. EPA will continue to work with the California Air Resources Board and the SJV APCD, as we strive toward the same goal - cleaner air for the valley residents.
Rebecca Rosen (email@example.com)