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Putting the power to model pollution into your hands

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At Carnegie Mellon, Professor Peter Adams is working to make sure that everyone who is affected by air pollution has the tools they need to understand the quality of their air.  When we talk about studying air pollution, we typically think of official government agencies and university labs, measuring particles and tracking wind speed—and with good reason. Until very recently, modeling the movement of pollution in the air required very complex calculations—models that often took days and even weeks to run. But air quality affects everyone: not just governments and universities, but average citizens, children, pets. At Carnegie Mellon, Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) and Engineering and Public Policy (EPP) Professor Peter Adams is working to make sure that everyone who is affected by air pollution has the tools they need to understand the quality of their air.

Adams’ lab is one of these university labs that creates complicated air quality models, called Chemical Transport Models (CTMs), that can take an inordinate amount of time to run but are extremely comprehensive and accurate. This is due to the many necessary inputs, such as a very detailed description of the 3-D meteorology for the time in question, the emissions of all pollution emitters in the surrounding area, and much more.

“Doing one of these requires both a lot of expertise and a lot of time,” says Adams. “These are the gold standard models, but the days or weeks of computer time is not even the big cost. The big cost is it takes months to prepare the inputs, and then months to analyze the data. It’s definitely not user-friendly.”

Continue reading at Carnegie Mellon.

Image Source:  Peter Adams