Final Report: Public Access to Environmental Monitoring Data in Tucson, Arizona

EPA Grant Number: R827052
Title: Public Access to Environmental Monitoring Data in Tucson, Arizona
Investigators: Kramer, Ursula , Burgess, Jefferey L. , Byrd, Wayne , Comrie, Andrew C. , Comrie, Leonore , Gorman, Beth , Hines, Stefani , O'Rourke, Mary Kay
Institution: Pima County , University of Arizona
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: November 1, 1998 through October 31, 2000 (Extended to March 31, 2002)
Project Amount: $485,100
RFA: Environmental Monitoring for Public Access and Community Tracking (EMPACT) (1998) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Environmental Statistics , Water , Sustainability , Air , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration


The objective of this research project was to expand community access to air quality data in Tucson, AZ. Prior to this Environmental Monitoring for Public Access and Community Tracking (EMPACT) grant, air quality data from the established monitoring sites in Pima County were available to the community in limited and untimely formats. Because of the EMPACT Air Info Now (AIN) program, two new monitoring sites were added to specifically target areas of concern, and the public now can access near real-time air quality information via the Web page and telephone hotline.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

Health Research and New Monitors

Researchers from the University of Arizona's (U of A) Environment and Community Health Department determined the optimum location for these new sites based on health data provided by the Arizona Health Department. These sites were located in two traditionally underserved regions of the Tucson metro area (northwest and south), known to have high levels of juvenile asthma, to provide detailed information on the air quality in those areas. Pima County Department of Environmental Quality (PDEQ) has established near real-time hourly updates of monitored data throughout the entire PDEQ network by using enhanced polling and reporting technology.

Ozone Maps

The U of A's Geography and Regional Development Department created automated ozone maps. The real-time ozone mapping program for Tucson, AZ, required 2 years to implement. During this time, research pertaining to the development of an automated, real-time map generation procedure evolved from initial data exploration and analysis, to a review of a variety of spatial interpolation and modeling methods, to the development of pilot statistical models, and to the eventual development and implementation of a final statistical algorithm that enables ozone mapping across the metropolitan area.

The ozone mapping program for Tucson, AZ, differs from others in the United States because the scale of the Tucson metropolitan area is much smaller than virtually all other mapping programs to date. In addition, and not surprisingly, these maps were to be created using data from a small set of continuous ozone monitors (currently eight monitors are online in Tucson). Because of the scale and monitor density issue, the current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ozone mapping methodology of spatially interpolating ozone measurements was expected to perform poorly. Staff from the U of A proposed and developed a regression-based spatial modeling approach, which models the geographic variation of ozone in the Tucson area from both theoretical expectations and empirical evidence. The resulting algorithm has resulted in a satisfactory, and in many ways superior, approach to providing air pollution maps for individual metropolitan areas.

The modeling approach considered environmental factors such as prevailing winds, ozone chemistry, and the spatial distribution of ozone precursors and local topography to simulate expected spatial and temporal ozone variability. The range of factors and specific variables describing them were supported by theoretical and empirical information from research literature in peer-reviewed journals, and by empirical evidence found in both historical ozone and meteorological data from Tucson, AZ. Briefly, a multiple linear regression analysis was applied to the ozone data, and a regression model was developed that established relationships between the geographic variables described above and the observed variability in ozone concentrations across time at all the monitor locations.

The resulting model provides reliable estimates of ozone concentrations across the entire Tucson map domain. Importantly, this modeling approach allowed for an error assessment using independent data, something that is difficult to do when using only geostatistical approaches such as kriging (as used in the current EPA approach). The final mapping "algorithm" is largely based on regression modeling, but there is some limited use of kriging. Once the model has calculated a final estimate of the spatial variation in the ozone data, kriging is used to interpolate any remaining difference between estimates and actual measurements. These correction values are added back into the model estimates. Importantly, this step results in the algorithm honoring the ozone concentrations measured at ozone monitors, as well as providing a smoothed and constantly varying surface that improves the visual look of the maps.

Enhanced Ozone Maps

PDEQ staff also developed an "enhanced" version of the ozone maps. Fortunately, ozone levels tend to stay in the good to moderate levels throughout the summer in the Tucson area. With the regular maps, there is little variation in color (green or yellow) and therefore, no way to see if ozone is building at different levels in different areas of the community. The "enhanced" map shows three shades of each Air Quality Index color and better informs the viewer of any incremental increases in ozone levels in the area of concern (see below). The Web site viewer can choose which variation of the map to watch with a click of the mouse.

Figure 1. An Example of a Map From an Unusually High Ozone Day

Visibility Web Camera

To provide visibility awareness to the Web users, a digital camera and associated software were purchased and permission garnered to install the camera on the roof of the Pima County Administration Building at 130 W. Congress Street in downtown Tucson (11 stories above ground level). Pima County Facilities Management installed all of the utilities necessary for the camera to function. PDEQ staff fabricated a stand for mounting the camera on the roof and the camera was installed and sends pictures to the Web site on a near real-time basis. PDEQ staff put together the code for automatically updating pictures on the AIN Home Page and set up the page that displays all the current pictures in either an automatically updating mode or a manually updating mode (useful for people who have slow Internet connections).

PDEQ staff also set up the Web camera pages that display the panoramas in either a thumbnail view or a full sized view. Three 360-degree panoramas are available: a morning view, an afternoon view, and an evening view. These panorama views came in extremely handy while attempting to explain to reporters low levels of particulate matter readings at the PDEQ monitoring sites when a nearby mountain was on fire. The panoramic views clearly showed that the smoke from the fire was being taken away from the valley by the prevailing winds.

Figure 2. An Example of an Enhanced Ozone Map

Environmental Health Outreach

The U of A's Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center (SWEHSC) Community Outreach and Education Program (COEP) was responsible for developing most of the environmental health educational outreach components of the AirInfoNow EMPACT Web Site. The outreach components of the Web site target three audiences: health professionals, the general public, and K-12 education. The information for health professionals was developed by U of A and SWEHSC faculty and can be found on the Web at Exit . The documents for health professionals consist of research summaries on the health effects of ozone, ambient carbon monoxide, and particulate matter.

Key points were taken from the three health effects research summaries and placed into a more reader-friendly format targeting the general public. Information on particulate matter also was added to this section. The portions of the Web site targeting the public include both "static" and interactive Web pages. The static pages, which also can be found at Exit , provide basic background information on each pollutant, sources for the pollutant, and potential health effects. The interactive pages, located at, use Flash technology and include activities called "Lung Attack," "A Recipe for Ozone," and "CO City."

The U of A SWEHSC COEP also assisted PDEQ with outreach activities to promote AIN and the information and materials provided through the Web site. An extensive curriculum was developed to help teachers utilize the most powerful resource on, which is the near real-time air quality data. "Real-time Data Collection Activities," which was beta tested with more than 60 9th and 10th grade students, is designed for middle and high school students and has them collect and analyze data for a 5-month period (through a warm and cold season). The students work in one of five groups correlating air pollution with visibility levels, weather, time of day, location in the city of Tucson, or number of asthma attacks within their school or school district. To date, 54 teachers have been trained by either SWEHSC or PDEQ to use the "Real-time Data Collection Activities" curriculum and/or the AIN Web Site. The majority of these teachers teach in the targeted areas with high pediatric asthma hospital discharge rates.

Public Outreach

In addition, Pima Association of Governments (PAG), the American Lung Association, and PDEQ implemented an extensive public and media education process that informed the targeted audience of these innovative ways to receive near real-time air quality information and, as a result, protect public health. PDEQ hosted information booths at many benefits and health fairs for local major employers (a major employer has 100 or more full-time employees). PAG arranges the fairs with the employers as one of the methods to encourage use of alternate modes of transportation. While at these events, staff had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with residents of Pima County. After interacting with participants, AIN promotional materials were distributed.

In addition, PAG took the lead in training the media to use the AIN Web Site and hotline. The agency contacted the media via e-mail in advance of the official news release to set appointments for Web site training sessions. PAG also developed a script used in the media training sessions, wrote and distributed a news release to the media and health care professionals, and assisted PDEQ staff in distributing informational packets to the media and health care professionals.

PAG also reviewed and provided comments on various items, including: student activities developed by the U of A's SWEHSC; outreach materials developed by PDEQ; and the AIN Web Site as it was being developed. PAG provided PDEQ with a map of monitor site locations for inclusion in the AIN Web Site.

PAG assisted in the AIN promotional efforts by writing a summary of the AIN Web Site and telephone hotline that was included in the January 2002 RideShare newsletter, which is distributed to 500 Transportation Coordinators at all major employers throughout Pima County. PAG will continue to advertise AIN in multiple locations, including: the PAG Web Site, by providing a link and a summary of the information available on the AIN Web Site, the telephone hotline, and in several documents including the Environmental Planning Guide, Air Quality in the Tucson Region brochure, Community Information Data Summary, and the Travel Reduction Program - Transportation Coordinator training materials and slide show and all RideShare outreach events.

The PDEQ has committed to continuing the EPA EMPACT Air Info Now Web Site, hotline, and public outreach beyond the life of the grant. As long as funding is available through other PDEQ air quality programs, the department will continue the provision of these valuable resources to the Tucson, AZ community.

Journal Articles:

No journal articles submitted with this report: View all 11 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

air, ambient air, atmosphere, ozone, exposure, health effects, human health, sensitive populations, children, elderly, particulates, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, modeling, monitoring, surveys, southwest, Arizona, AZ, Tucson, EPA Region 9, air pollution, education, public information, Web site, outreach, Environmental Monitoring for Public Access and Community Tracking, EMPACT, health, pollutant mapping., RFA, Health, Scientific Discipline, Air, Geographic Area, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Environmental Chemistry, Health Risk Assessment, climate change, State, Risk Assessments, Susceptibility/Sensitive Population/Genetic Susceptibility, Monitoring/Modeling, Environmental Monitoring, Children's Health, genetic susceptability, asthma, sensitive populations, EMPACT, air toxics, community-based approach, meteorology, airway disease, respiratory problems, public information, Human Health Risk Assessment, air pollution, children, human exposue, time-relevant monitoring, assessment of exposure, childhood respiratory disease, children's vulnerablity, Arizona (AZ), web site development, environmental toxicant, human susceptibility, community outreach, sampling, age dependent response, outreach and education, public health alerts, public outreach, air quality, environmental hazard exposures, toxics, atmospheric chemistry, real-time monitoring

Relevant Websites: Exit Exit Exit

Progress and Final Reports:

Original Abstract
  • 1999
  • 2000 Progress Report
  • 2001 Progress Report