For centuries, humans used mercury to extract gold or silver. Incredibly dangerous if inhaled directly, mercury also poses an environmental burden when it is released into the atmosphere or ends up in water. Mercury release can have natural (from volcanoes and forest fires) or man-made (anthropogenic) origins (power plants and manufacturing). One anthropogenic source linked to Air Sciences’ work is gold mining in Nevada.
Dust from wind traveling across open land areas is a common phenomenon on all continents of the world. Whether a tilled field or a geographic feature like a dry lakebed, these areas can emit dust that impacts public respiratory health. Knowing the potential for adverse health effects is difficult to quantify. Varying surface conditions, weather, and rates of emission are inherent to this challenge. Read more
Wildfires are growing in intensity and frequency as the climate changes, draining resources for firefighting often early in the season. Traditional methods of fire towers or satellite imaging are not effective until fires are of substantial size. Air Sciences intern Mikhail Mayers, a computer engineering student at Portland State University, is working with some other students to detect smaller fires sooner. Read more
Soil erosion from wind has plagued agriculture for centuries. More recently, mining operations, construction, and water diversion projects have been facing similar problems. Eroded soil can become suspended in the atmosphere and lead to violations of National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
For industry, the most common solution is watering the ground, which increases soil cohesion and reduces dust emissions. Water, though, is often in short supply or prohibitive in cost. For this reason, Air Sciences is using industrial-scale tilling methods to inhibit dust emissions in complex regulatory environments. The solution is water-free, inexpensive, monitorable, and maintainable.
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.