New tool shows the way to air pollution

(HOUSTON, TX) Environmental Defense Fund Unveiled Today air tracker, a one-of-a-kind web-based tool that allows users to plot the likely trajectory of air pollution. Run on reliable real-time scientific models and paired with air pollution and weather data and developed in partnership with the University of Utah and Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab, Air Tracker helps users to learn more about the air they breathe, including pollution concentrations and its potential sources.

“Air quality monitors can show us how polluted our air is, but they’re not equipped to tell us what’s causing the pollution,” says Tammy Thompson, senior air quality scientist and creator of the tool. “With Air Tracker, we are able to see likely sources of pollution hotspots, which is especially useful in cities where a variety of emitters contribute to overall air quality.”

Users can click anywhere on the maps of Houston, Salt Lake City, and Pittsburgh to create a “source zone,” which indicates the most likely origin of the air they’re breathing at any given time. They can also click on individual air quality sensor locations to view real-time and historical readings of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) pollution, wind speed and direction.

Building on STILT, the stochastic time-reversed Lagrangian transport model, Air Tracker integrates a variety of weather forecasting models to show how particles move through the atmosphere, allowing the tool to map the likelihood of pollution trajectory. Air Tracker goes beyond common source identification models – which are unable to capture fine-scale air pollution variability – to identify pollution sources at the block level.

In Houston, for example, where a lack of zoning has allowed industrial sources to operate near communities with homes, schools, churches and hospitals, Air Tracker uses both real-time and historical data to show how different sources contribute to poor air quality in different locations. dates and times.

“Breathing dirty air is bad for our health, and these health effects are not evenly distributed.” said Sarah Vogel, EDF’s senior vice president, Healthy Communities. “The poorest and most disadvantaged groups suffer disproportionately from the greatest exposures and health effects of air pollution. We hope that community leaders and individuals will use this pollution data to hold polluters accountable and advocate for clean air policy change.

In addition to learning more about sources that may be influencing the air they breathe, Air Tracker users can also use real-time source area identification to speed up mitigation and help spot and controlling emissions from accidents and unusual events. Through its “Share” feature, users can take screenshots of source areas to send to regulators and local authorities.

Air Tracker is part of EDF’s ongoing work to better understand local air pollution, its behavior and its impacts. Air Tracker can be adapted to include additional pollutants and used in other cities around the world, including those that do not yet have extensive hyper-local air quality monitoring programs.

To learn more about Air Tracker, EDF’s Global Clean Air efforts and project partners, visit

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