Category: Applied Research Overview

The State of Utah is home to towering mountain ranges, resource-rich basins, sprawling farmland, and vast deserts. These diverse environments are inhabited by equally diverse people, all of whom are affected by the air quality in our state. Understanding the factors that influence the quality of our air is imperative to mitigating the harmful effects of poor air quality on public health. The physical environment which includes atmospheric chemistry, meteorology, and topography, combines with by-products of modern technology and industry such as emissions from vehicles and buildings, to create air pollution problems that are unique to Utah. Research conducted by the Division of Air Quality and its community partners informs decisions made by the Utah State Legislature to improve our air quality.

Current & Recently Completed Studies

Emissions Reactive Organics

Emissions of Reactive Organics from Natural Gas-Fueled Engines

Utah State University scientists will improve estimates of the magnitude and composition of emissions from natural gas-fueled artificial lift engines in the Uinta Basin. Recent ambient air measurements have implicated natural gas-fueled engines as a large source of reactive organics, including formaldehyde, ethylene, propylene, and other compounds. The results from this project will allow Utah DAQ to better understand and model this source of ozone-forming pollution in the Uinta Basin and develop science-based, effective emissions reduction strategies for wintertime ozone.

  • Principal Investigators: Seth Lyman (USU), Huy Tran (USU)
  • Funded by Science for Solutions Research Grant: $117,300
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Vertical Ozone Profiles in the Uinta Basin and Validating Drones as an Air Measurement Platform

The University of Utah will conduct vertical ozone profile measurements from ground level to the mid-stratosphere to develop a better understanding of ozone layers and evolution over Utah. Data collected by drones and balloons will provide information on the vertical distribution of ozone and nitrous dioxide (NO2) among other gases. This data will be used by UDAQ to inform policy and decision makers.

  • Tony Saad (UU), John Sohl (Weber State University)
  • Funded by Science for Solutions Research Grant: $92,463
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Quantitative Attribution of Wildfires Map Image

Quantitative Attribution of Wildfires on Summertime Ozone Concentrations along the Wasatch Front

Wildfires can significantly enhance summertime ozone and aerosol concentrations, which can degrade air quality and have adverse effects on human health. While air quality has improved across much of the U.S., the Western U.S. has seen a recent increase in wildfire activity. This project will assess the contribution of regional fires and long-range smoke transport to poor air quality in the Salt Lake Valley. This study will also improve our understanding of how wildfires interact with urban plumes, improve air quality modeling capabilities, and guide the implementation of effective regulatory policies.

  • Adam Kochanski (San Jose State University), Derek Mallia (UU), Kerry Kelly (UU)
  • Funded by Science for Solutions Research Grant: $79,768
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Halogen Sources Map Image

Halogen Sources and their Influence on Winter Air Pollution in the Great Salt Lake Basin

The Great Salt Lake Basin is meteorologically and chemically distinct from other regions in the U.S. It is subject to both persistent cold air pools in complex terrain that lead to winter air pollution and potentially large inputs of natural and anthropogenic sources of halogen species. This project will investigate the role of these halogen sources in regulating the severity of winter fine particulate matter (PM2.5). Results from this study will improve estimates of halogen emissions and enhance Utah DAQ’s understanding of winter PM2.5 chemistry.

  • Steve Brown (NOAA), Caroline Womack (NOAA)
  • Funded by Science for Solutions Research Grant: $83,426
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Heavy Duty Vehicles

Winter Measurements of Heavy-duty Vehicles to Characterize the Cold Temperature Effectiveness of Selective Catalytic Reductions Catalyst in Controlling Oxide of Nitrogen Emissions

The Salt Lake City region in Utah experiences periods of high particulate levels in the winter months due to the combination of its topography, winter atmospheric inversions and local emissions. Secondary nitrate particles comprise the dominant fraction of the particles in these episodes and are the result of the reaction of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) with ammonia. A significant fraction of NOx emissions in the Salt Lake City area are produced by heavy-duty vehicles operating in or traveling through the area on the interstate highway system. This study will measure wintertime NOx emissions from local heavy-duty vehicle activity in order to improve Utah DAQ emissions inventory estimates and better inform policy.

  • Gary Bishop (University of Denver)
  • Funded by Science for Solutions Research Grant: $52,000
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Saturation Air Toxics Monitoring in Davis County, Utah

A study conducted by the Utah Division of Air Quality (UDAQ) and the University of Utah, where 24-hr time-integrated air samples were collected every third day at three different sites during 2015, showed high levels of formaldehyde and dichloromethane at Bountiful Viewmont (BV) site.

  • Principal Investigators: Nancy Daher (DAQ), Kerry Kelly (U of U)
  • Funding Amount: $191,642
  • Funding Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
  • Funding Program: Multipurpose Grant
  • Study Period: 01/01/2017 – 12/31/2018
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Improving Volatile Organic Compound Emission Estimates for the Uintah Basin

This study builds on last year’s effort to improve the speciation of volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from oil and gas wells in the Uintah Basin. Better speciation profiles will yield a better emission inventory for the basin and will help focus emission reduction strategies.

  • Principal Investigators: Trang Tran, Huy Tran (USU)
  • Funded by Science for Solutions Research Grant: $140,000
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PM2.5 Graph

Characterizing Air Quality Impacts from Exceptional Events along the Wasatch Front

This study, led by researchers at BYU, will use particulate matter (PM) sampling to identify regional dust sources that impact local air quality and public health, as well as model how dust sources might change in the future.

  • Principal Investigators: Dr. Greg Carling (BYU)
  • Funded by Science for Solutions Research Grant: $150,000
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Model Map Graphic

Improving WRF/CMAQ Model Performance using Satellite Data Assimilation Technique for the Uintah Basin

This study will test if satellite observations of vegetation and land use can be used to improve photochemical model performance in the Uintah basin. An improved model will help inform emission reduction strategies and regulatory action.

  • Principal Investigators: Huy Tran, Trang Tran (USU)
  • Funded by Science for Solutions Research Grant: $38,392
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Trax Map

TRAX Air Quality Observation Project (Blue Line)

The TRAX air quality project continues to measure PM2.5 and ozone from TRAX light rail trains, and will add measurements to the Blue line. All data is publicly available and posted in near real-time on the MesoWest website.

  • Principal Investigators: Daniel Mendoza, Logan Mitchell, John Horel, John Lin (UU)
  • Funded by legislative appropriation: $44,000
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Inversion Photo by Aaron Gustafson

Investigating Sources of Ammonia Uncertainty in Modeling the Salt lake City PM2.5 Nonattainment Area

This study will investigate the existing emission inventory of ammonia (NH3) sources and compare modeled NH3 concentrations to those observed during recent field studies in order to identify and correct missing NH3 sources. In addition to improving the inventory, this study will add new NH3 emission pathways to the photochemical model.

  • Principal Investigators: Chris Emery (Ramboll), Randal S. Martin (USU)
  • Funded by Science for Solutions Research Grant: $86,396
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Red Butte Canyon Graph

The Red Butte Canyon Air Mass Exchange and Pollution Transport Study

The University of Utah will make measurements of vertical wind and aerosol profiles, as well as ozone and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations at the mouth of Red Butte Canyon in order to better understand air exchange in the Salt Lake Valley during wintertime PM2.5 events.

  • Principal Investigators: Sebastian W. Hoch, Erik T. Crosman (UU)
  • Funded by Science for Solutions Research Grant: $34,965
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The Red Butte Canyon Ozone Network:
Leveraging Existing Infrastructure to Probe Background Concentrations, Canyon Flows, and Stratospheric Oxidant Exchange

This study will deploy a number of ozone sensors at different distances up Red Butte Canyon to better understand natural gradients in ozone and how phenomena like large thunderstorms and valley drainage flows contribute to ozone concentrations in the Salt Lake Valley.

  • Principal Investigators: Logan Mitchell, Ryan Bares, David Eiriksson (UU)
  • Funded by Science for Solutions Research Grant: $39,833
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Fireplace Photo from Unsplash by Hayden Scott

Understanding How Wood-Burning’s Contribution to Particulate Matter Concentrations Have Changed over Time

Wood burning contributes to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution in the Wasatch Front, and reducing the use of wood burning during pollution episodes has been the focus of many policy decisions. This study looks at patterns of temperature, heat deficit, and day of the week along with markers of woodsmoke and mandatory no-burn days, to try and understand if public awareness and policy efforts have been effective in reducing wood burning during pollution events.

  • Principal Investigator: Kerry Kelly (UU)
  • Funded for: $25,215
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IR Camera

ULend Program

The ULend program is a collaborative approach for fixing compliance issues before they become a regulatory problem. The program focuses on small oil and gas producers who might not be able to afford the kind of expensive equipment that could help them identify and repair leaks early.

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Jordan Narrows Map

Jordan Narrows Gap Ammonia Transport Study

This study will provide key meteorological support for the chemistry observations taken during the upcoming 2018-­-2019 winter season that are focused on the ammonia transport and air mass exchange between the Salt Lake and Utah Valleys.

  • Principal Investigators: Sebastian W. Hoch, Erik Crosman (UU)
  • Funded by Science for Solutions Grant: $19,510
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