Reporting environmental data can feel a lot like the “old days” in so many ways. Regardless of improvements in instrument technology, the data and reporting requirements don’t change. What has changed though is the potential to make the data flow automatically into your regular reporting. That’s right, flow. Automatically.
In our previous post on the Regional Haze Rule (RHR), we briefly explored the history of the rule and how recent changes in the rules and accompanying guidance have implications for how wildland fires are handled during the planning process. Here, we will look more closely at the implications of wildland fire on regional haze planning, and how Air Sciences is assisting the Western Regional Air Partnership (WRAP). WRAP is a voluntary partnership of states, tribes, federal land managers, local air agencies and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) whose purpose is to understand current and evolving regional air quality issues in the Western United States.
Then and Now
Promulgated in 1999 in the wake of the bipartisan Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission’s recommendations, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Haze Rule established visual (instead of health-based) criteria for air quality to address declining visibility. The areas subject to this rule span the larger Class I national parks and wilderness areas (156 in total) overseen by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and several Native American Tribes.
North American playas are large dust emitters. Dotting the deserts of the Southwestern United States, these dry lake beds are highly saline from the concentration of salts following evaporation. These salt deposits can become entrained in the air when winds scour the dried lakebed. The resulting saline dust has a high fraction of halogenated compounds, primarily those containing chlorine. When the chlorine-containing aerosols (the dust that remains suspended in the atmosphere) mix with nitrogen oxides (primarily dinitrogen pentoxide), a gas called nitryl chloride (ClNO2) is produced. Sunlight interacts with ClNO2, breaking it apart into chlorine radicals that participate in the formation of tropospheric ozone.
In 2015 the United States (US) Department of State launched an Air Quality Monitoring Program with the primary goals of protecting US personnel and their families, obtaining sound data to reduce exposure, evaluating the Department’s enterprise risk, advancing scientific understanding, and highlighting US technology and leadership. This effort has contributed air quality reporting at many embassies and consulates around the world. Volunteer on-site Air Quality Fellows provide the scientific expertise behind this program. Air Sciences’ Dr. Katheryn Kolesar recently returned from such a trip to Cairo, Egypt.