Monday, September 30, 2013

How to Monitor Urban Air Pollution? Go Fly a Kite!

Kite detects pollution, shines light on Beijing smog (Holden Frith, for CNN, Sep. 4, 2013)

Also discussed here: FLOAT Beijing

And here: Stars in the Haze(6 mi documentary video, Joshua Frank, Dec. 20, 2012)

Today we review a description of an award-winning project by a graduate student at Harvard University which adds air quality sensors (for ozone, carbon monoxide and particulates) to kites along with a display of trailing lights that indicates the relative pollution in real-time to those below.

float beijing  

Key Quotes:

FLOAT Beijing, a network of air-quality monitors fixed to the kites traditionally flown across the city. Lights controlled by sensorS and trailing along the kite string like fireflies would give a simple readout of pollution levels: green for safe and red for danger.”

“The sensors used for the project measure carbon monoxide, ozone and general particulates.”

"We didn't just collect the data and put it on a spreadsheet online…We displayed it in a way that was really intuitive. Everyone understood that different colors mean different pollution levels and just the activity of kite flying itself was also a really exciting way to distribute information."

“Conceived by U.S. graduate students Xiaowei Wang and Deren Guler, FLOAT organized workshops in Beijing to teach both veteran and fledgling kite flyers how to build simple pollution sensors that travel into the Chinese capital’s soupy skies and send data back to the people on the ground.”
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Friday, September 27, 2013

Future Health Impacts of Climate Change Around the World

Impacts of 21st century climate change on global air pollution-related premature mortality(15 page pdf, Yuanyuan Fang & Denise L. Mauzerall & Junfeng Liu & Arlene M. Fiore & Larry W. Horowitz, Climate Change, Jul. 16, 2013)

Also discussed here: Air Pollution Worsened by Climate Change Set to Be More Potent Killer in the 21st Century(Science Daily, Sep. 4, 2013)

Today we review global climate modeling research that estimated the changes in mortality over the next 100 years, resulting from air pollution with or without climate change included. Results indicate a 4% increase in deaths or up to 100,000 deaths overall, augmented by the reduced amount of low stratus cloud in a dustier atmosphere which normally scours out the particles during precipitation. world pm with cl ch  

Key Quotes:

“climate change is expected to induce changes in air pollution, exposure to which could increase annual premature deaths by more than 100,000 adults worldwide..[need] stronger emission controls to avoid worsening air pollution and the associated exacerbation of health problems, especially in more populated regions of the world”

“We use a global coupled chemistry-climate model to simulate current and future climate and the effect of changing climate on air quality” “CCM [coupled chemistry-climate models] studies suggest that PM2.5 and aerosol concentrations may increase in a warmer climate because stratiform precipitation (a dominant driver for wet scavenging in the model) decreases when and where soluble pollutants are most abundant”

“we find about a 4 % (difference less than 0.1%) increase [i.e. 93,000 to 100,000 premature deaths/yr) in global premature mortalities due to changes in PM2.5 resulting from 21st century climate change.”

“In North America, Europe, South and East Asia, 21st century climate change induced changes in both PM2.5 and O3 surface concentrations are projected to increase premature mortality under the scenario of a constant population, baseline mortality rate and emissions of short-lived air pollutants. Climate change generates an air quality “climate penalty” by increasing surface concentrations of air pollutants and associated human health risks.”

 “21st century climate change increases global all-cause premature mortalities associated with PM2.5 by approximately 100,000 deaths and respiratory disease mortality associated with O3 by 6,300 deaths annually.”

 “Reducing emissions of black carbon and methane would be particularly effective as mitigation of these pollutants can slow the rate of climate change while reducing concentrations of PM2.5 and O3 and their associated health risks”
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Monday, September 23, 2013

How Resilient Is Your City to Climate Change?

The "burning embers" diagram above w...
The "burning embers" diagram above was produced by the IPCC in 2001. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The political underpinnings of cities’ accumulated resilience to climate change(12 page pdf, David Satterthwaite, Environment & Urbanization, Sep. 2, 2013)
Today we review a look at what is needed to make a city resilient in a broad sense that includes social and political response as well as the usual approach that is aimed simply at building a stronger infrastructure. A distinction was made between high and low income countries where in the latter as many as 30 countries many people live in highly vulnerable shacks. For most cities, resilience is created from accumulated exposure to climate impacts as well as action from local government and communities. Linkage to other jurisdictions is important when the threat comes from outside local boundaries as in watershed flooding. 

Key Quotes:
Resilience in the context of climate change and cities is usually taken to mean the capacity of a city to absorb climate change-related disturbances/shocks while retaining the same basic structure and ways of functioning.” 

In urban centres with accumulated resilience, it is usually local governments that were responsible for most of the factors contributing to the resilience” 

a focus on resource availability beyond the urban boundaries that are essential for populations and/or enterprises…coordinated actions by institutions from other jurisdictions (for instance, the management of watersheds to reduce flood risks that are outside city boundaries and jurisdictions)

“Well-governed cities that have greatly reduced these risks have accumulated resilience to the climate change impacts that exacerbate (or will exacerbate) these risks”

““bottom-up” pressures from citizens and civil society on national and city governments are critical for developing the institutions and measures to reduce climate change-related risks (especially for those most at risk) and to support resilience.”

the extent to which resilience can be effective also depends on global agreements reached on climate change mitigation that slow and stop global warming.” 

Household and community action can increase resilience but its effectiveness often depends on complementary action by government. “
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Friday, September 20, 2013

What Sources of Air Pollution Cause the Most Premature Deaths?

Air pollution and early deaths in the United States. Part I: Quantifying the impact of major sectors in 2005(Abstract, Fabio Caiazzo, Akshay Ashok, Ian A. Waitz, Steve H.L. Yim, Steven R.H. Barrett, Atmospheric Environment, November, 2013)

Also discussed here: Air pollution causes 200,000 early deaths each year in the US, study finds(PHYSORG, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Aug. 29, 2013)

Today we review research which examines the sources of air pollution causing early death in the USA. About half of the 200,000 premature deaths are linked to vehicle emissions and electric power generation with less to industrial pollution which historically had been thought to be the largest contributor and the object of many air pollution reduction policies. Road transportation, in particular, is singled out as a major threat as a result of growing urban populations and the proximity of people to the emissions.

road power deaths

Key Quotes:

“A multi-scale air quality model is applied to assess the health impacts of major emissions sectors in United States. Emissions are classified according to six different sources: electric power generation, industry, commercial and residential sources, road transportation, marine transportation and rail transportation.”  

Emissions from road transportation are the most significant contributor, causing 53,000 premature deaths, followed closely by power generation, with 52,000.”

"It was surprising to me just how significant road transportation was..especially when you imagine [that] coal-fired power stations are burning relatively dirty fuel…vehicles tend to travel in populated areas, increasing large populations' pollution exposure, whereas power plants are generally located far from most populations and their emissions are deposited at a higher altitude.”

“Pollution from industrial activities was highest in the Midwest, roughly between Chicago and Detroit, as well as around Philadelphia, Atlanta and Los Angeles.”

“California suffers the worst health impacts from air pollution, with about 21,000 early deaths annually, mostly attributed to road transportation and to commercial and residential emissions from heating and cooking. “

“The researchers also mapped local emissions in 5,695 U.S. cities, finding the highest emissions-related mortality rate in Baltimore, where 130 out of every 100,000 residents likely die in a given year due to long-term exposure to air pollution. “

 “a person who dies from an air pollution-related cause typically dies about a decade earlier than he or she otherwise might have.”
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Monitoring Pollution Near Multi-Lane Highways

Freeway air pollution travels farther in early morning(Bettina Boxall, Los Angeles Times, Apr. 17, 2013)
Also discussed here: Air board will start monitoring pollution next to SoCal freeway(Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times, Aug. 25, 2013)

And here: EPA’s Remarkable New Air Pollution Monitors (I’m like a Kid in a Candy Store(Gretchen Goldman, Union of Concerned Scientists, Aug. 29, 2013)

Today we review news that the Environmental Protection Agency will be implementing a program to monitor air quality within 160 ft of major roadways for the 100 largest cities in the US. This comes as more and more research indicate both the health risks produced by exposure to those who live near roadways (even at sunrise before peak rush hour traffic) and the extent to which pollution from the highways drift downstream (1.2 km).

freeway pollution

Key Quotes:

"We have known about the adverse health impacts of living near freeways for almost 20 years but don't routinely monitor air quality there,"

“Under EPA rules to be phased in over three years, starting in January, the largest metropolitan areas must put four monitors within about 160 feet of major roadways to measure nitrogen oxides, fine particulates and carbon monoxide. Smaller areas will be required to have between one and three monitors.”

“Under EPA requirements, monitors will be installed at four sites, providing data about what the 1 million Southern Californians who live within 300 feet of a freeway are breathing…Similar steps will occur in more than 100 big cities across the country.”

“It’s clear heavily trafficked roadways have a large impact on downwind populations, and a similar situation likely happens around the world in the early morning hours…The particles tend to end up indoors, so a lot of people are being exposed inside their homes and schools.”

“downwind UFP [ultrafine particle] concentrations as high as ∼40 000 cm−3 extended at least 1200 m from the freeway, and did not reach background levels (∼15 000 cm−3) until a distance of about 2600 m….UFP concentrations were also elevated over background levels up to 600 m upwind of the freeway.”

“wide air pollutant impact area downwind of a major roadway prior to sunrise has important exposure assessment implications since it demonstrates extensive roadway impacts on residential areas during pre-sunrise hours, when most people are at home.”
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Monday, September 16, 2013

Measuring and Reducing Traffic Congestion

Smart Congestion Relief - Comprehensive Evaluation Of Traffic Congestion Costs and Congestion Reduction Strategies(47 page pdf, Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, Aug. 28, 2013) congestion measures
Today we review a report from the Victoria Transport Policy Institute that analyses various measures of congestion and the economic and other costs in various strategies to reduce congestion. The author emphasizes the need to include all aspects and both short and long term impacts when selecting an optimum strategy or strategies. Increasing road infrastructure, for example, will reduce congestion in the short term but also increases annual maintenance costs, parking costs and pollution levels while road pricing tends to decrease all three impacts.  

Key Quotes:

“Traffic congestion refers to the additional delay and vehicle operating costs caused by interactions among vehicles on a roadway, particularly as traffic volumes approach a road’s capacity. “

“Win-win congestion reduction strategies include:
  • Improvements to alternative modes….
  • Bus and high-occupant vehicle (HOV) priority lanes and signal controls, …
  • Efficient transport pricing, including congestion pricing
  • Smart growth land use policies that create more compact and multi-modal …
  • Transportation demand management (TDM) programs that encourage users to choose the most efficient option for each trip, including commute trip reduction programs, mobility management marketing and transportation management associations. …”
“Commonly-used performance indicators such as roadway level-of-service and the travel time index, only measure congestion intensity, that is, the reductions in vehicle traffic speeds on particular roads; they do not account for factors that affect the amount that residents must drive during peak periods and therefore their total congestion costs “

“Cities are places that emphasize proximity over mobility.” “Most studies conclude that motorists are willing to pay, on average, 25-50% of wages for reduced congestion delay….The U.S. Department of Transportation recommends valuing personal travel time at 35% to 60% of prevailing incomes, or $8.37 to $14.34 per hour ”

“Since congestion pricing was introduced in central London in 2003, vehicle trips into the congestion pricing zone have declined by 17%, and congestion, measured as person-hours of delay per mile traveled, has fallen by 26%. “
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