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Oklahoma Heath & Air Quality (Fall 2021)

Team: Carolina Rosales (Project Lead), Robert Alward, Kjirsten Coleman, Katherine Howell, and Vanessa Machuca 

Summary: Tropospheric ozone (O3) is formed by anthropogenic pollutants interacting with sunlight and is considered harmful to human health in high concentrations. In the summer of 2018, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) measured unexpected spikes in O3 in Seiling, Oklahoma, with concentrations exceeding those measured in bustling Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The DEQ tracks air quality using ground monitors and does not utilize Earth observation data in its monitoring or analysis.  This project used remotely sensed data to investigate these 2018 air quality anomalies, identifying possible causes. We analyzed atmospheric data from Terra and Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), and Sentinel-5P Tropospheric Ozone Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI) in conjunction with ground-based measurements of tropospheric ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), methane (CH4), carbon monoxide (CO), formaldehyde (HCHO) and atmospheric optical depth (AOD). We compared Hybrid Single-Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory (HYSPLIT) model simulations and Earth observation visualizations to pinpoint ozone spike causes. We also generated models to identify contributing factors to variations in ground ozone concentrations in our study area. The results point to a variety of ozone spike causes, primarily from outside of the state, and support the placement of additional NO2, O3, and CO monitors to the southeast of Seiling. These analyses can help guide the placement of future monitors in the ground monitoring network and inform air quality regulations in Oklahoma.