An international team of scientists conducted the study, which was part of the Department of Energy's Atmospheric Sciences in Complex Terrain program -- a long-term effort to study the effects that geographical features such as mountains and valleys have on air movement and pollution. The study was funded by DOE and the Mexican government.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory organized the meteorological portion of the project and staffed one of six data-collection sites. "The complex movement of air in the high basin makes it difficult to predict where the pollution will concentrate at any given time," says Pacific Northwest?s Chris Doran, science director of the project. "The close coupling of meteorological and chemistry measurements and analysis is necessary to understand how the surrounding terrain affects the transport and diffusion of pollutants."
The study may help explain how fine particles form in the atmosphere. These particles are potentially the most hazardous because they can lodge in the lungs, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new standards for fine particles. "This study will be relevant to our understanding of the nature and causes of fine particle air pollution throughout the world, including that found in U.S. cities," said Pacific Northwest's Sylvia Edgerton, project director.
The data will be used to improve computer models designed to predict
atmospheric conditions and potentially guide responses to pollution -- such as
changing the location or timing of pollution releases.
Contact: Jim Thielman
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory