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San Joaquin Valley Health & Air Quality (Summer 2023)

Team: Jonathan Szeto (Project Lead), Jasper Beardslee, Piper Christian, Bethany MacCarter, Alma Quintero

Summary: Little Manila Rising (LMR) is a nonprofit in Stockton, California that has been increasingly concerned by the air pollution in their city and the neighboring San Joaquin Valley (SJV). Geographical factors, climate conditions, and anthropogenic activities, such as agriculture burning and vehicle emissions, contribute to the high levels of air pollution in this region. To visualize the distribution of air pollution and social disparities across the SJV, LMR partnered with NASA DEVELOP. The DEVELOP team used Terra/Aqua MODIS, Sentinel-5P TROPOMI, and CALIPSO CALIOP to observe Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), and the vertical distribution of pollutants at varying pollution levels, respectively. Additionally, Suomi-NPP VIIRS provided active fire data. By leveraging NASA Earth Observations along with sociodemographic and public health data, the DEVELOP team created maps identifying the areas experiencing the highest vulnerabilities and disparities in pollution exposure. The team found that AOD was slightly higher in agricultural regions, while NO2 was consistently higher along transportation corridors and urban areas. Wildfires dominated the type of detected active fires, and there was high correlation (R2 = 0.6924) between active fires and burn permits in agricultural tracts. Furthermore, the team identified both high AOD vulnerability and high NO2 vulnerability in census tracts in South Stockton, an area that has been historically redlined and disinvested in, and where LMR resides. There was also a high correlation between air quality reported from the satellites and in-situ ground monitors. These results will support LMR’s organizing strategies for stricter enforcement of air pollution regulations and increased public health equity for community members.