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

image of downtown SLC with smoke

The Salt Lake Regional Smoke, Ozone and Aerosol Study (SAMOZA)

The University of Washington, Utah State University and the University of Montana will conduct a detailed study of ozone (O3) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the Salt Lake Valley (SLV). Using new VOC observations, plus existing measurements of NOx, CO and PM2.5, they will use a variety of analyses to understand O3 formation and the sources of PM2.5 in the SLV during the summertime season. In addition, they will conduct photochemical modeling and statistical/machine learning analyses to improve our understanding of O3 photochemistry. We expect to gain significant new policy-relevant insights on what controls high concentrations of O3 in the SLV during both smoke-influenced and non-smoke conditions.

  • Principal Investigator: Dan Jaffe (University of Washington)
  • Funded by Science for Solutions Research Grant: $280,516
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Smoke plume from the wildfire in Parleys Canyon, Utah on 14 Aug. 2021.

Improving Smoke Detection and Quantifying the Wildfire Smoke Impacts on Local Air Quality Using Modeling and Machine Learning Techniques

Though it can be easy to tell that wildfire smoke has negative impacts on urban air quality, there is no tool to quantitatively measure wildfire impacts, nor to identify whether exceedance days are due to wildfire smoke or other emissions. The first scope of this work will develop a new plume rise model to estimate the plume injection heights for larger wildfires, which will improve simulations of smoke transport and downwind air pollution concentrations. The second scope of this work is to use CTM (chemical transport model) ensemble simulations to determine wildfire smoke contributions to local air quality using source apportionment techniques. The last scope of this work is to develop a fast-response tool to identify federal standards (NAAQS) exceedance days with large contributions from wildfire smoke.

  • Principal Investigator: Heather Holmes (University of Utah)
  • Funded by Science for Solutions Research Grant: $61,738
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Improved Vegetation Data for the Biogenic Emission Inventory of Wasatch Front

Improved Vegetation Data for the Biogenic Emission Inventory of Wasatch Front

The goal of this project is to improve numerical predictions of regional ozone and aerosol distributions in the Wasatch Front by developing more accurate estimates of biogenic volatile organic carbon (BVOC) emissions for the urban areas within the Northern Wasatch Front. Specifically, this project will upgrade modeled MEGAN (Model of Emissions of Gasses and Aerosols from Nature) BVOC emission estimates by analyzing high-resolution satellite imagery using machine learning, object-based classifications that are calibrated and assessed by field observations. Such techniques have already successfully been applied in Texas and California. These techniques will improve MEGAN landcover inputs for the Wasatch Front region including time-varying Leaf Area Index (LAI), growth form fractions (tree, shrub, crops, herbaceous plants) and tree species composition (e.g., relative abundance of oaks, poplars, pines, spruce, etc). The benefit of this project will be an improved MEGAN emission model for the Wasatch Front that is available for use in air quality models that are critical for our scientific understanding and the development of effective regulatory strategies.

  • Principal Investigator: Tejas Shah (Ramboll US Consulting)
  • Funded by Science for Solutions Research Grant: $124,797
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Image of the impaction substrates

Particulate Chloride in the Urban Environment

The University of Utah will conduct a study intended to significantly reduce uncertainties regarding the temporal, spatial, and particle size distributions of particulate chloride. Through source apportionment, the study will also identify the dominant sources of this important halogen. These results will provide important emission inventory constraints for future air quality modeling efforts performed by UDAQ and others.

  • Principal Investigator: Kevin Perry (University of Utah)
  • Funded by Science for Solutions Research Grant: $75,735
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Image: Formation region over Farmington Bay at 11 AM and lake breeze boundary (blue line) progressing by 1 PM down the Salt Lake Valley.

Impacts of the Great Salt Lake on Summer Ozone Concentrations Along the Wasatch Front

The University of Utah is conducting a study to determine the meteorological factors that contribute to elevated surface ozone near the Great Salt Lake. The core task for this project is to evaluate from ozone observations and meteorological observations and model analyses the timing of buildup in ozone in the southern Farmington Bay region and subsequent transport into Davis and Salt Lake counties. Completion of this task will provide resources that are likely to enhance operational air quality forecasting and provide critical information to initialize and verify air chemistry models used to identify approaches to meet federal air quality standards.

  • Principal Investigator: John Horel (University of Utah)
  • Funded by Science for Solutions Research Grant: $63,084
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Image: WRF zoom-in of 1.33km-domain with black circles indicating monitoring stations used for model performance evaluation

Development of Top-down Hydrocarbon Emission from Oil and Gas Production in the Uintah Basin

Utah State University and the University of Utah will use a method known as top-down emission estimation to refine volatile organic compound emissions from oil and gas production based on long-term surface level measurements of methane and hydrocarbons in the Uintah Basin. The objective of this project is to improve the Utah Division of Air Quality (UDAQ) bottom-up Uintah Basin Emission Inventory (UBEI), which is critical information for developing a regulatory model for UDAQ’s State Implementation Plan to attain the 8-hour federal ozone standard.

  • Principal Investigators: Seth Lyman (Utah State University), John C. Lin (University of Utah)
  • Funded by Science for Solutions Research Grant: $106,095
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Image: WRF 2-m air temperature and wind velocity predictions on 10-km grid for northern Utah at 4:00 am April 12, 2017 (left) and 4:00 am April 13, 2017 (right).

Development of a WRF-based Urban Canopy Model for the Greater Salt Lake City Area

Brigham Young University will conduct a two-year project that will utilize state-of-the-science meteorological modeling with land use descriptions of the Great Salt Lake area to characterize impacts of urban growth on local meteorological conditions. Model methodology and usage will be documented so air quality modelers can use existing or self-developed future results for additional urban growth and air pollutant assessments.

  • Principal Investigator: Bradley Adams (BYU)
  • Funded by Science for Solutions Research Grant: $59,411
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Image: Observed ozone concentrations at Ouray and Vernal during January – March 2013. Time in MST.

Assessing Wintertime Ozone Prediction Sensitivity to Photochemical Mechanism

Ramboll and the Utah State University – Bingham Research Center (BRC) will conduct a study to thoroughly investigate wintertime ozone prediction sensitivity in the Uinta Basin among two current photochemical mechanisms using a consistent modeling platform. Recent air quality modeling conducted by BRC using different modeling systems indicates that the Regional Atmospheric Chemistry Mechanism (RACM) produces much higher ozone concentrations than the Carbon Bond (CB) mechanisms. Ramboll and the BRC will comprehensively test and understand RACM2 performance in simulating wintertime ozone in the Uinta Basin relative to the CB version 6 (CB6) mechanism currently implemented in the CAMx air quality model used by the Utah Division of Air Quality.

  • Principal Investigators: Greg Yarwood (Ramboll), Seth Lyman (Utah State University)
  • Funded by Science for Solutions Research Grant: $98,048
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Ethylene Oxide Monitor-90 wide

Ethylene Oxide in Utah

Ethylene Oxide Study EPA’s latest National Air Toxics Assessment identified ethylene oxide as an air toxic pollutant of emerging concern, with potential to lead to elevated cancer risk. To determine any potential health risk from exposure to ethylene oxide in Utah communities, the Division of Air Quality and the University of Utah will measure ambient …

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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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Identifying and Quantifying the Impact of Wildfires and Dust Events on Utah’s Air Quality

Principal Investigator: John Lin, (UU) Study Period: 1 September 2014 – 1 January 2016 Funded for: $93,335 DAQ Contact: Chris Pennell ( Wildfires and dust storms are considered “exceptional events” in air quality modeling because they are not reasonably controllable or preventable, are caused by human activity that is unlikely to recur at a particular …

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