Civil and Environmental Engineering Department Seminar: Hyperlocal Air Pollution Mapping for a Planet of Cities

Seminar | March 13 | 10-11 a.m. | 542 Davis Hall

 Joshua Apte

 Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE)

Air pollution exposure is the leading environmental risk for premature death globally and a key cause of health disparities in U.S. cities. Future choices about energy and transportation will profoundly change the levels and spatial patterns of urban air pollution around us. Yet pervasive gaps in current environmental measurement infrastructure limit our understanding and predictive ability about the air we breathe. New techniques for measurement and data analysis can illuminate the relationships between urban infrastructure, atmospheric emissions, and population exposures to air pollution.

I present here a new approach for mapping air pollution at exceptionally high spatial resolution in urban areas. We equipped Google Street View cars with real-time instrumentation to measure particle and gas-phase air pollutants. We deployed this fleet over three years to cities in California and Texas to generate one of the world’s largest and most spatially resolved urban air pollution datasets. Our analyses reveal surprising spatial variation of pollution within individual neighborhoods. Several converging lines of evidence, including from a dense stationary sensor network and a mobile aerosol mass spectrometer campaign, reinforce our conclusion that previously unappreciated emissions sources cause pollution “hotspots” throughout many urban communities. Ongoing work to scale our techniques to cities around the world will allow us to generate air pollution maps at the city-block scale for hundreds of millions of people. I conclude by illustrating how this new approach for understanding air pollution can contribute to the design of healthier, more equitable, and more sustainable urban infrastructure.

 Leori Gill, CA, leorig@berkeley.edu, 510-642-1762