Air quality data analysis is the process of analyzing large sets of data to assess current air quality (Does it meet national standards?), determine spatial and temporal trends and patterns (Is it getting better or worse?), and identify potential air pollution sources (What’s causing high concentrations?). Most data analysis techniques are statistical and many combine measurements of pollutant concentrations with meteorological data to place measurements in a broader context, allowing broader conclusions to be drawn.  Resource: A Guide to Mid Atlantic Regional Air Quality.

Ozone is the major component of summertime smog in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Ozone in the upper atmosphere is beneficial to life, shielding the earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. In contrast, a high concentration of ozone in the air we breathe is a major health and environmental concern.

Ozone is formed when sunlight provides energy for chemical reactions between airborne volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. Ozone can be formed miles downwind from sources of these pollutants, and high concentrations of ozone can occur over large areas.

To help assess the contribution of various pollutants to the formation of ozone air pollution, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initiated the Photochemical Assessment Monitoring Stations (PAMS) program for serious, severe, and extreme ozone nonattainment areas. PAMS stations monitor for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), ozone, oxides of nitrogen (NOx), and meteorological parameters.

In January 1998 the MARAMA Board authorized a project to analyze regional PAMS data and produce a report on the importance of mobile sources in the Mid-Atlantic Region. MARAMA contracted with Sonoma Technology, Inc. and E.H. Pechan Associates to prepare a series of related reports.

In 2000-2001 MARAMA collaborated with the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management association (NESCAUM) on a larger analysis of PAMS data.

PM2.5 comprises fine, inhalable solid particle and liquid droplet particulate matter 2.5 micrometers and smaller. Some PM2.5 is emitted directly from smokestacks, construction sites, unpaved roads, or fires, but most forms in the atmosphere in chemical reactions. All PM2.5 can get deep into lungs and into the bloodstream, posing serious health risks.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

  • AIRData: Access to Air Pollution Data – The AirData Web site provides access to yearly summaries of United States air pollution data, taken from EPA’s air pollution databases. There is also a collection of user-friendly visualization tools for air quality analysts. The tools generate maps, graphs, and data tables dynamically.
  • AIRNow – EPA, NOAA, NPS, tribal, state, and local agencies developed the AIRNow Web site to provide the public with easy access to national air quality information, daily AQI forecasts as well as real-time AQI conditions for over 300 cities across the US, and provides links to more detailed State and local air quality Web sites.
  • Air Quality System Data Mart – The Air Quality System (AQS) Data Mart is a database containing every measured value EPA has collected via the national ambient air monitoring program plus associated aggregate values calculated by EPA (e.g., 8-hour, daily, annual, etc.)
  • Air Trends Website – EPA tracks trends for ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, lead, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. EPA’s Air Trends webite provides reports and summaries, as well as a tool for exploring air quality trends interactively.
  • Ambient Air Monitoring Network Assessment Guidance – Analytical Techniques for Technical Assessments of Ambient air Monitoring Networks (EPA-454/D-07-001, February 2007)
  • EnviroFlash – EnviroFlash is a system that sends e-mails about your daily air quality forecast. The message is the same air quality information that the local radio or television stations provide, plus suggested safety measures when levels are unhealthy. This service is provided by your state or local environmental agency and EPA. 

Sattelite Projects and Training

AQAST and HAQAST are NASA led initiatives to focus scientific experts spread across the U.S., in government offices and public and private universities on use of NASA satellite data to help solve real-world public health and air quality problems.

  • AQUAST – Air Quality Applied Sciences Team
  • HAQAST – Health and Air Quality Applied Sciences Team
  • ARSET – Offers an Applied Remote Sensing Training
  • ARSET – Offers an Applied Remote Sensing Training

Academic and Government

  • Regional Atmospheric Measurement Modeling and Prediction Program (RAMMPP) – The University of Maryland, College Park’s (UMD) Regional Atmospheric Measurement Modeling and Prediction Program (RAMMPP) integrates ozone forecasting, measurements, mesoscale modeling, and chemical transport modeling with the aim of better understanding the influences controlling Mid-Atlantic air quality.
  • National Weather Service – The National Weather Service (NWS) provides weather, water, and climate data, forecasts and warnings.