The University of Arizona

Air Quality and Climate | CLIMAS

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Air Quality and Climate

Air Quality and Climate

Lead Investigator:  

Dust storms in the Southwest US and Northern Mexico continue to be a serious health and safety issue.  With an increasing number of valley fever diagnoses each year, this has elevated its priority as a critical disease in across the region. As part of this effort a pilot scale health study with data from one hospital has been conducted in southern New Mexico to gauge impacts of air quality on health. During the study we also found a great need in forecasting wind events, especially those that coincide with drought. We use both ground based air quality monitoring and satellite remote sensing of dust plumes to determine areas impacted and areas where dust has originated. Another goal is to improve short-term dust forecasts and those coupled with seasonal forecast model output to provide longer lead times for dust events.

Based on research so far, we found that regional fire incidents may trigger high ozone episodes, which may exceed air quality standards. Our analysis of hospital emergency room (ER) and admissions data indicated effects of PM10, PM2.5 and ozone on ER visits during the April to September period in a region impacted by windblown dust and wildfires. We found that the sources within 500km of the study area accounted for most of particle mass and ozone concentrations. Sources in Southeast Texas, Baja California and Southwest US were the most important regional contributors. Increases of cardiovascular ER visits were estimated for PM10 (3.1%) and PM10-2.5 (2.8%) for all adults during the warm period (April–September).

We have also developed a protocol for pollen sampling, using locally found materials in Las Cruces, NM, which can be used to easily collect pollen and fungi. We created a particle atlas that identifies what can be found in a typical sample.