2016 Progress Report: SEARCH: Solutions to Energy, AiR, Climate, and Health

EPA Grant Number: R835871
Center: Solutions for Energy, AiR, Climate and Health Center (SEARCH)
Center Director: Bell, Michelle L.
Title: SEARCH: Solutions to Energy, AiR, Climate, and Health
Investigators: Bell, Michelle L. , Anastas, Paul T. , Breysse, Patrick N. , Curriero, Frank , Deziel, Nicole Cardello , Eckelman, Matthew J. , Ellis, J. Hugh , Esty, Daniel C. , Gentner, Drew R. , Gentry, Bradford S. , Gillingham, Kenneth , Hobbs, Benjamin F. , Katz, Howard , Kerkez, Branko , Koehler, Kirsten , Peccia, Jordan , Peng, Roger D. , Son, Jiyoung , Storelvmo, Trude , Streets, David G. , Wara, Michael W. , Weyant, John P. , Zaitchik, Ben , Zhang, Yang , Zhang, Yawei , Zimmerman, Julie B.
Institution: Yale University , Argonne National Laboratory , North Carolina State University , Stanford University , The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health , The Johns Hopkins University , University of Michigan , Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
EPA Project Officer: Callan, Richard
Project Period: October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2020
Project Period Covered by this Report: October 1, 2015 through September 30,2016
Project Amount: $9,999,990
RFA: Air, Climate And Energy (ACE) Centers: Science Supporting Solutions (2014) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Global Climate Change , Air Quality and Air Toxics , Airborne Particulate Matter Health Effects , Particulate Matter , Air , Climate Change


The main objectives of the Solutions for Energy, AiR, Climate and Health Center (SEARCH) Center are to investigate energy-related transitions underway across the United States by combining state-of-the-science modeling of energy systems, air quality, climate, and health. SEARCH aims to characterize factors contributing to emissions, air quality, and health associated with key energy-related transitions to understand how these factors affect regional and local differences in air pollution and public health effects. In addition, we will identify key modifiable factors (e.g., transportation, land-use, power generation) and how those factors and their air pollution impacts are likely to change over time.

Project 1 (R835871C001) estimates how energy transitions in the United States affect emissions of air pollutants, including how modifiable factors influence regional emissions. This project uses detailed modeling of energy and emissions, including key feedbacks within the energy system and development of novel downscaling tools. Life Cycle Assessment will be used to estimate a broader set of emissions, such as those from manufacture of energy technologies.

Project 2 (R835871C002) assesses ambient levels and personal exposures of pollution corresponding to energy transitions taking place in a case study city, by developing and deploying novel high-resolution monitors and considering modifiable factors, such as commuting patterns.

Project 3 (R835871C003) uses online coupled air quality modeling to estimate how energy transitions in Project 1 affect ambient concentrations. It also develops improved modeling tools to reduce uncertainty and better characterize temporal and spatial variation of pollutants and identify modifiable factors contributing to regional differences in pollution.

Project 4 (R835871C004) estimates the health consequences of energy transitions and incorporates key uncertainties and epidemiological analysis of understudied modifiable factors (e.g., urbanicity, land-use). Climate change modeling (Project 3) will be used to estimate how the results of all the projects are affected by potential climate change. In addition, Project 4 estimates the climate change impact of emissions from the energy scenarios.

The Quantitative Methods Unit (QMU) for the SEARCH Center provides centralized statistical and data analytic services to all projects in the Center. The QMU brings extensive expertise in the analysis of environmental health and spatial-temporal data, and its investigators have long-standing collaborations with several members of the SEARCH research team. The objectives of the Quantitative Methods Unit are to: (1) provide statistical analysis support for all four Center projects, including design consultation, analytical work, and manuscript preparation; (2) conduct statistical methodology research for application in all Center projects when existing approaches are insufficient to address the scientific questions of interest; and (3) coordinate efforts across projects to ensure that all research findings are reproducible by making computer code and data sets available when possible.

The Policy and Decision Making Facility Support Unit provides a way to bridge this gap and to ensure that the SEARCH research produces outputs that are beneficial for real-world decisions. In doing so, the Policy Unit helps to maximize the impact of the SEARCH contribution to public health and the environment. The Unit’s specific objectives include: (1) fostering policy-relevant science through an external Decision Making Team; (2) assisting SEARCH researchers with the development of specific energy policy scenarios for use in research projects using the Unit to connect to real-world policy and decision making; and (3) facilitating the dissemination of research findings in the policy arena and finding innovative ways to communicate with policy makers and the general public.

Progress Summary:

Project 1

  • Development of transition scenarios via webinars and in-person meetings with members and staff from air regulatory commissions in Mid-Atlantic (MARAMA) and New England (NESCAUM) states.
  • Modeling transition scenarios in NEMS.
  • Building tools to downscaling NEMS results
  • Life cycle assessment: preparing input-output databases for integration with NEMS by creating appropriate sector mappings.

Project 2

  • Focused on the development of the stationary and portable multipollutant monitors and preparations for the field measurements of Project 2, starting in year 2.

Project 3

  • Completed the initial applications of a global model and three regional AQMs for a 5-year period (2008-2012) over continental U.S. (CONUS). 
  • Performed analysis of heat wave duration using daily surface temperature from an ensemble of climate simulations from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) for the present (1981-2000) and future (2030s and 2090s) with the RCP scenarios.
  • Developed a new high resolution NO2 data set based on the standard NASA Ozone Monitoring Instrument NO2 product for the eastern United States.    

Project 4

  • Investigating factors that could influence air pollution-health associations, such as long-term temporal trends in the short-term effects of PM2.5 of hospital admissions in the United States.
  • Have begun two systematic reviews and meta-analyses to investigate which subpopulations are most vulnerable or susceptible to environmental conditions including air pollution and temperature.
  • Conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis of published epidemiological studies that considered sex as an effect modifier for the health effects of short-term exposure to NO2.

Quantitative Methods Unit

Key milestones by the QMU include work on the development of statistical methods for environmental exposures. Some of this work is relevant to all projects in the Center as measurement error, particularly as it arises through spatial misalignment, will be a recurring theme in the Center’s research. QMU has provided key statistical guidance to Center projects (e.g., the temporal trend work in Project 4). Other work focuses on the development of new methods for air pollution studies in both epidemiological and small-scale cohort studies.

Policy and Decision Making Facility Support Unit

The Policy Unit launched a number of outreach initiatives with the policy community, particularly with state Department of Environmental Protection air directors.

  • Convened a meeting with and a more extensive survey of regional policymakers regarding their perceptions of the optimal portfolio of energy transition scenarios to be examined by SEARCH researchers as part of Project 1. This exercise provided key insights into what energy scenarios were most relevant to the policy choice being faced by state decision makers. The five scenarios selected for further analysis include: (1) distributed generation and demand response, (2) electric vehicles, (3) natural gas as a bridge fuel, (4) marine shipping, and (5) comprehensive building efficiency initiatives. The Policy Unit also introduced the SEARCH project to the Mid Atlantic Regional Air Management Association and sought their input on the relative importance of the various transition scenarios.
  • Launched an ongoing discussion with SEARCH Project 1 on the policy elements and implications entailed by each of the energy transition scenarios. This exercise led to the development of a list of pertinent questions to think through with the researchers to sharpen the focus of their work.

Future Activities:

Project 1 

  • Development of transition scenarios: Final transition scenarios will be developed with input from internal teams and external stakeholders.
  • Modeling transition scenarios in NEMS: Our next goal is to successfully replicate the Annual Energy Outlook 2016 results to verify that there are no outstanding errors, consistent with the Project 1 QAPP.
  • Downscaling: We will refine and evaluate new temporal and spatial downscaling approaches, and develop protocols for transferring NEMS results. We also will continue to coordinate with Project 3 on procedures for sharing data (both transferring downscaled growth rates and meteorological information necessary for modeling transition scenarios) and to ensure the new downscaling methods can be implemented by the air quality simulation team.
  • Life Cycle Assessment: We will finalize industry sector mapping and conduct baseline LCA simulations based on AEO 2016 results, with the input-output models providing a complementary set of information on up-stream manufacturing.

Project 2 

  • Completion of mulitpollutant monitor design, and the deployment of the fixed stationary network and the start of personal exposure monitoring.

Project 3 

  • Perform diagnostic evaluation and sensitivity simulations using global and regional models to pinpoint the likely causes of the large model biases for potential improvement of the model’s skills.
  • Develop methods to quantify compound extreme events such as drought and heat waves and apply the methods to understand and estimate changes in compound extreme events projected by CMIP5 models and regional AQMs, with a focus over the United States.
  • Compare our high resolution satellite product with the high density NO2 and PM2.5 measurements from Project 2 and compare high-resolution satellite data with model results to suggest improvements to the emission inventory.

Project 4 

  • Continue work towards successful completion of the specific objectives.
  • Systematic reviews and meta-analyses and investigations of which modifiable factors and subpopulations are most relevant for different air pollution-health associations in the present day and under a changing climate.
  • Work closely with the Quantitative Methods Unit regarding biostatical analysis and with the Policy and Decision Making Facility Support Unit regarding policy actions that could impact PM2.5.

Quantitative Methods Unit

We will continue to work on the activities proposed in our original grant application. We expect the presentation from Environmental Health Sciences FEST this year will be developed into a published paper.

Policy and Decision Making Facility Support Unit

The Policy Unit plays a unique role in supplementing the research framing of the SEARCH project and helping to ensure that critical information flows between real-world environmental policymakers and SEARCH project researchers. This connection with (in particular) state level air directors offers the promise of helping the SEARCH research team to produce policy-informed science and science-informed policy. Thus, the Unit itself is not producing new scientific research but rather sharpening the focus of that done by the SEARCH researchers. The Policy Unit will continue to support the SEARCH program by analyzing existing environmental policy reviews relevant to the various SEARCH projects and gathering insights from policymakers to better inform the hypothesis and experiments conducted by SEARCH researchers.

Journal Articles: 2 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other center views: All 5 publications 2 publications in selected types All 2 journal articles
Type Citation Sub Project Document Sources
Journal Article Bravo MA, Anthopolos R, Bell ML, Miranda ML. Racial isolation and exposure to airborne particulate matter and ozone in understudied US populations: environmental justice applications of downscaled numerical model output. Environment International 2016;92-93:247-255. R835871 (2016)
R835871C004 (2016)
  • Abstract from PubMed
  • Full-text: ScienceDirect-Full Text HTML
  • Other: ScienceDirect-PDF
  • Journal Article Bravo MA, Ebisu K, Dominici F, Wang Y Peng RD, Bell ML. Airborne fine particles and risk of hospital admissions for understudied populations:effects by urbanicity and short-term cumulative exposures in 708 US counties. Environmental Health Perspectives 2017;125(4):594-601. R835871 (2016)
    R835871C004 (2016)
    R833863 (Final)
  • Full-text from PubMed
  • Abstract from PubMed
  • Associated PubMed link
  • Full-text: EHP-Full Text PDF
  • Abstract: EHP-Abstract & Full Text HTML
  • Supplemental Keywords:

    Emissions downscaling, energy-economic modeling, energy transitions, Lifecycle Assessment, LCA, National Energy Modeling System, NEMS, pollution prevention, social science, systems analysis, air pollution, ambient air quality, criteria pollutants, exposure assessment, health effects, human exposure, mixtures, oxidative stress, particulate matter, transport, source apportionment, climate ensemble analysis, climate extreme, downscaling, global and regional modeling, heat wave, model evaluation, model improvement, O3, PM2.5, satellite retrieval, ambient air, atmosphere, dose-response, elderly, epidemiology, ethnic groups, global climate, race/ethnicity, risk assessment, susceptibility, statistical methods, air quality, climate change, energy, environmental health, fossil fuel, policy

    Relevant Websites:

    SEARCH - Solutions for Energy, Air, Climate, and Health Exit

    Progress and Final Reports:

    Original Abstract

    Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R835871C001 Project 1: Modeling Emissions from Energy Transitions
    R835871C002 Project 2: Assessment of Energy-Related Sources, Factors and Transitions Using Novel High-Resolution Ambient Air Monitoring Networks and Personal Monitors
    R835871C003 Project 3: Air Quality and Climate Change Modeling: Improving Projections of the Spatial and Temporal Changes of Multipollutants to Enhance Assessment of Public Health in a Changing World
    R835871C004 Project 4: Human Health Impacts of Energy Transitions: Today and Under a Changing World