Quantifying the Impacts of Anthropogenic Emissions and Specific Infrastructures on Urban Air Quality

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Lawal, Abiola S.
Russell, Armistead G.
Kaiser, Jennifer
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The interconnectivity between city infrastructure, energy and air quality is explored by evaluating the impact of environmental regulations, urban layout, and the transportation sector on air quality and energy use. Particular aspects of the research include assessing how controls have impacted aerosol acidity (which impacts health), linkages between energy, demographics, and how both airports and the use of autonomous and electric vehicles may impact on air quality. This research finds that while environmental regulations are effective in curbing pollution, as measured through decreases in fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions in the U.S., PM2.5 particles (aerosol) remain acidic. An implication of this is that it could be decades before changes in aerosol acidity, which is related to the toxicity and adverse health impacts of PM2.5, are seen. The research also found a strong statistical relationship between residential energy (electric and natural gas) consumption and socio-economic demographic (SED) factors for Zip Code Tabulated Areas (ZCTAs) in metropolitan Atlanta. However the electricity model exhibited high bias. Additional analyses found that electricity use is affected by the urban morphology of the roadways, with ZCTAs in high road density areas using more electricity The impacts of airports, mainly the Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson (ATL) on air quality, was examined using fine scale chemical transport modeling (CMAQ).CMAQ results are evaluated using ground-based and high resolution satellite-based observations from the TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI). TROPOMI's ability to provide consistent NO2 vertical column densities (VCDs) is assessed using the CMAQ results around two power plants. A 3D airport emission inventory from full flight operations is developed and compared against a base inventory with only surface airport operation emissions allocated to ATL. Results show that the magnitude and spatial extent of airport effects on air quality would be understated if only the base inventory is used for regulatory purposes. Lastly, we assess the efficacy of an electrified automated fleet of passenger cars on 2050 air quality in the US with a 2050 scenario where gasoline powered passenger cars emit lower levels of pollution than present day automobiles with CMAQ. We find that electric cars have advantages over future gasoline vehicles in terms of improving air quality, though the magnitude varies by species (O3, PM2.5). The overall implications of our findings is that policy, technology and urban infrastructure have a compounded effect on the efficacy of environmental regulations, air quality and energy use. Multiple factors should be considered when designing policies promoting equitable, sustainable cities.
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