Search

Stay Connected

NOAA Research News

NOAA scientist shows how reducing air pollution has saved lives
Katie Valentine

NOAA scientist shows how reducing air pollution has saved lives

Christopher Loughner, an assistant research scientist at the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center/Cooperative Institute for Satellite Earth System Studies at the University of Maryland, and scientist at NOAA’s Air Resources Laboratory, is the lead author of “The benefits of lower ozone due to air pollution emission reductions (2002-2011) in the Eastern US during extreme heat," recently published in the Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association. 

Air pollution regulations gave rise to historical air pollution emissions reductions from 2002-2011, resulting in improved air quality, improved human health and lives saved, and economic savings due to reductions in mortality and morbidity. To quantify these improvements, Loughner’s study focused on ozone pollution and health impacts in the eastern U.S. in July 2011. Results suggest that, for this month, emissions reductions: prevented 10-15 ozone exceedance days in the Ohio River Valley and 5-10 in the Mid-Atlantic; resulted in fewer hospital admissions, including 950 fewer for respiratory symptoms, 570 fewer for asthma symptoms and 370 fewer for pneumonia; resulted in 922,020 fewer minor restricted activity days and 430,240 fewer symptoms of asthma exacerbation; and saved between 160 and 800 lives in the Eastern U.S. Overall, these benefits equated to $1.3-$6.5 billion in savings.

The Impact of Reducing Air Pollution

The Impact of Reducing Air Pollution

(Click to enlarge) Chart shows the estimated number of avoided deaths (right) and avoided asthma exacerbation events (right) in parts of the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Southeast and Midwest in July 2011, thanks to air pollution reductions.

NOAA Research sat down with Loughner to learn more about this study and his broader work on air pollution.

What led you to study air quality?

During my undergraduate work in meteorology, I enjoyed my atmospheric chemistry class more than the typical classes. That led me to graduate school and onward. I was interested in chemistry, how air pollution forms and how changes in the atmosphere move the pollution around, and I was fascinated by how weather impacts air chemistry. 

A lot of my research has been on the interaction between weather and air quality. I’m now focused on dispersion modeling with HYSPLIT. Improving models improves the representation of transport and air chemistry within the atmosphere. 

Did you expect to see such significant results when you began researching the impacts of air pollution emissions controls?

We expected that the level of air quality had improved because we see that with the models. Health impacts are a new avenue of research for me, so I didn’t know how big they could get. We only studied one month, but it was a hot month and you do expect the largest air quality impacts in the summer. It was still surprising to see such significant results because it was one month and not one year. 

The models referred to by Loughner are the Community Multiscale Air Quality model (CMAQ) and the Environmental Benefits Mapping and Analysis Program (BenMAP). CMAQ is an air quality model used for air quality forecasting, as well as for planning purposes to determine how future emissions reductions will impact air quality. BenMAP, on the other hand, is a health impacts and economic model. 

We took ozone concentrations output from CMAQ model simulations and fed them into the BenMAP model, which relies on relationships between air quality and human health impacts developed by epidemiologists (those who study risk factors for diseases and other factors relating to health). We quantified how past emissions reductions saved lives, improved human health, and provided economic benefits. 

What made you choose to focus on July 2011?

It was the hottest month on record in Maryland and we expect similar months in the future. We think it is representative of the future due to climate change. Rising temperatures mean we might not get as large of a decrease in air pollution - the impact of emissions reductions - in the future. When emissions remain the same (at the now reduced levels) but the temperature increases, the air quality worsens. It’s called the “climate penalty factor.”

When you think about the future of air quality modeling, what do you see?

Models will be regularly run at higher resolution to do a better job of capturing local scale circulations, like sea breezes and urban heat islands (areas that are significantly warmer than surrounding rural areas due to human activities). 

Previous Article NOAA scientist to serve as expert in Wikipedia edit-a-thon
Next Article NOAA Science Report highlights 2019 research accomplishments
Print
1872

x

Popular Research News

Dungeness crab larvae already showing effects of coastal acidification

Dungeness crab larvae already showing effects of coastal acidification Read more

Analysis of larval crab sampled from coastal waters identified examples of damage to the outer shell of numerous larval Dungeness crabs, as well as the loss of hair-like sensory structures crabs use to orient themselves to their surroundings. 

NOAA launches major field campaign to improve weather and climate prediction

NOAA launches major field campaign to improve weather and climate prediction Read more

Picture a calm, sunny day at a tropical beach. You look out at the ocean and in the distance a flotilla of small white clouds sails close to the waves. It’s ideal weather and typical of many days in the tropical Atlantic. However, scientists don’t fully understand how these ubiquitous clouds (a type of “shallow convective cloud”) form and impact the ocean, and it represents one of the largest uncertainties in predicting climate change.

Wave gliders, ocean drifters and drones to help international researchers solve key climate question

Wave gliders, ocean drifters and drones to help international researchers solve key climate question Read more

American and European scientists are deploying dozens of autonomous and remotely-piloted instrument platforms to capture simultaneous observations of the lower atmosphere and the upper ocean offshore of Barbados with unprecedented detail.

NOAA teams up with Viking to conduct and share science aboard new Great Lakes expedition voyages

NOAA teams up with Viking to conduct and share science aboard new Great Lakes expedition voyages Read more

NOAA plans to expand its research in the Great Lakes region as the agency teams up with the travel company Viking to carry scientists aboard new expedition voyages planned to begin in 2022.

RSS
«April 2020»
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2930311234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293012
3456789

OAR HEADQUARTERS

Phone: 301-713-2458
Address: 1315 East-West Highway Silver Spring, MD 20910

Stay Connected

ABOUT US

Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) - or "NOAA Research" - provides the research foundation for understanding the complex systems that support our planet. Working in partnership with other organizational units of the NOAA, a bureau of the Department of Commerce, NOAA Research enables better forecasts, earlier warnings for natural disasters, and a greater understanding of the Earth. Our role is to provide unbiased science to better manage the environment, nationally, and globally.

CONTACT US

Can't Find What You Need?
Send Feedback
Copyright 2018 by NOAA Terms Of Use Privacy Statement
Back To Top