Air Quality Observatory

EPA Grant Number: R835873C002
Subproject: this is subproject number 002 , established and managed by the Center Director under grant R835873
(EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).

Center: Center for Air, Climate, and Energy Solutions
Center Director: Robinson, Allen
Title: Air Quality Observatory
Investigators: Presto, Albert , Millet, Dylan B , Apte, Joshua S. , Robinson, Allen
Institution: Carnegie Mellon University , The University of Texas at Austin , University of Minnesota
EPA Project Officer: Chung, Serena
Project Period: May 1, 2016 through April 30, 2021
RFA: Air, Climate And Energy (ACE) Centers: Science Supporting Solutions (2014) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Air , Climate Change


The primary aim of this project is to address Priority Research Areas 1, 2, and 4 from the RFA by collecting and analyzing air quality observations to characterize spatial (intra-city, urban-to-rural, and inter-city) and temporal distributions of multiple air pollutant species in three cities (Pittsburgh, Austin, Los Angeles). The project has three core objectives: (1) identify determinants of spatial and temporal patterns in outdoor concentrations for a wide range of pollutants (CO, NO, NO2, VOCs, O3, PM2.5 mass and composition, ultrafine particles) within and between regions and modifiable factors driving these differences, (2) locally evaluate national-scale models of air pollution using a new, independent dataset of measurements with high spatiotemporal precision for multiple pollutants, and (3) develop a mechanistic understanding of how physicochemical pollutant transformations affect ambient concentrations over exposure-relevant spatial and temporal scales (seconds to days, ~10 m – 100 km).


Our air quality observatory will be the first to integrate the following measurements: (a) a stationary central “supersite” to measure concentrations of criteria pollutants and chemically resolved PM components, (b) spatially distributed multi-pollutant samplers to quantify time-integrated and real-time concentrations, and (c) mobile monitoring using state-of-the-art laboratory-grade analytical instruments. In combination, these complementary techniques will provide unprecedented insight into the spatial and temporal patterns of exposure for three cities that have different land use patterns and emissions sources. Four case studies will be conducted over 1 year in each city: urban-torural transects, roadways, industrial sources, and goods movement areas. The resultant data will be analyzed with factor analysis models to determine the spatially resolved impact of important emissions sources and to characterize near-source transformations of dynamic pollutants.

Expected Results:

The data generated in this project will improve understanding of pollutant gradients near sources, provide vital information on the impact of modifiable factors on regional differences in pollutant concentrations (intra-city, urban-to-rural, intercity), and be used to evaluate exposure models. The results of this project will be used to: (1) quantify how modifiable factors (emissions, land use) influence air quality and air pollution exposure in three major cities, (2) evaluate the performance of temporally and spatially resolved exposure models developed as part of this Center in Projects 1 and 3, (3) guide future measurement strategies for understanding how sources and source mixtures drive pollutant concentrations and population exposures, and (4) improve our understanding of the relevant physico-chemical processes driving spatial pollutant gradients near sources.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this subproject: View all 3 publications for this subprojectView all 87 publications for this center

Supplemental Keywords:

atmosphere, mobile sources, exposure, VOC, aerosol, PM2.5, metals, organics, elemental carbon, ultrafine particles, monitoring

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2016 Progress Report
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019

  • Main Center Abstract and Reports:

    R835873    Center for Air, Climate, and Energy Solutions

    Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R835873C001 Mechanistic Air Quality Impact Models for Assessment of Multiple Pollutants at High Spatial Resolution
    R835873C002 Air Quality Observatory
    R835873C003 Next Generation LUR Models: Development of Nationwide Modeling Tools for Exposure Assessment and Epidemiology
    R835873C004 Air Pollutant Control Strategies in a Changing World
    R835873C005 Health Effects of Air Pollution and Mitigation Scenarios