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Health, Science & Environment

Scientists Map Salt Lake Valley Emissions

For the first time, sources of carbon dioxide in Salt Lake County can be identified at the level of individual buildings and roadways. University of Utah researchers unveiled a new tool Monday that they say can be used to better track and combat air pollution.

It’s called Hestia, and atmospheric scientists at the University of Utah say they can use the tool to provide previously unattainable details on greenhouse gas and pollutant emissions. With monitors at different places around the valley, Associate Professor John Lin says the idea is to create a detailed map of emissions.

“The near term goal is try to understand the spatial patterns of the emissions,” Lin says. “Are certain neighborhoods emitting more than others and why? Are they just using different kinds of heating? Do their windows leak more?”

Lin says they’re focused on measuring carbon dioxide – a gas that contributes to climate change, but combining that information with other data helps them understand pollutants that affect air quality, like particulate matter. The goal is to deliver interactive data visualizations that can help lawmakers, regulators and the public identify better ways to reduce the health and environmental impacts. Pulmonologist Robert Paine is Director of the Program for Air Quality, Health, and Society at the university. 

“We’ve got more and more people living in the valley. We have more and more vulnerable individuals affected by air pollution,” Paine says. “We need to be very energetic about this, and take advantage of things like Hestia and these research opportunities really to become more efficient in our efforts to improve pollution and decrease health effects.”

Professor John Lin says the University of Utah is being used as a living lab. They’re using monitoring stations around the campus to test that their tools are accurately measuring emissions.

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