Air (Ine)quality in New York City

A pilot project to map surface ozone and PM2.5 in underserved boroughs in New York City during heat wave events and to engage with their communities in Summer 2023.

Relevance to NOAA CSL Science Goals

  1. On 30 September 2021, NOAA Administrator Dr. R. Spinrad communicated to all NOAA staff and affiliates that "increasing equity and environmental justice" is one of his top three priorities.
  2. This pilot study will demonstrate the connection between detailed ground level observations, where pollution directly impacts human health, and the broader aircraft and satellite observations deployed under AEROMMA.
  3. This project will continue NOAA CSL's fruitful collaboration with The City College of New York (CCNY).



Research Goals

  1. Quantify ozone and PM2.5 variability across selected areas of NYC (high Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) versus low EJI, commercial/residential streets versus recreation parks).
  2. Quantify ozone and PM2.5 variability with respect to heat wave events (focused both on the diurnal cycle and weekday/weekend variability).
  3. Link ground-based ozone and PM2.5 quantities to aircraft and satellite measurements from Atmospheric Emissions and Reactions Observed from Megacities to Marine Areas (AEROMMA), Coastal Urban Plume Dynamics Study (CUPiDS), and TEMPO (Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring Pollution).
  4. Evaluate the ability of an urbanized mesoscale forecast model to predict air pollution at granular scale.
  5. Develop additional research questions of interest to community members, and formulate research methods to answer these questions.


map of NYC targeted areas
Map of the areas (red contours) where the POPS, PAM, POM will be deployed and indicated above the Environmental Justice Index (EJI) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The regions that are planned to be deployed during this pilot project include North, Central and Southeast of Manhattan, East of Brooklyn, Southeast of the Bronx.

Students at CCNY and affiliated with the NOAA Hollings Program will carry the Portable Ozone Monitor (POM) [Andersen et al., 2010] and the Personal Air Monitor (PAM) developed at 2B Tech (Boulder, Colorado), concurrently with the Portable Optical Particle Spectrometer (POPS) [Gao et al., 2016] developed by NOAA CSL, in mesh bags attached to a backpack through NYC. The PI will also be in the field and will engage with the students and the CCNY scientists in order to monitor emerging scientific questions. We are aware that we are tasking healthy individuals with exposing themselves to poor air quality and perhaps for extended periods in a way that is outside their normal envelope of exposure. Mitigation options will be pursued such as providing N95 masks for participants and limits in exposure time.

As a starting point, the routes are planned to be mainly between Inwood and Times Square in NYC, with repetitive walks in Inwood Hill Park, Fort Tryon Park, Highbridge Park and Central Park where maximum ozone levels and minimum PM2.5 levels are expected. In contrast, sampled routes will include Broadway, St Nicholas Avenue, Sherman Avenue, George Washington Bridge and Times Square, where minimum ozone levels and maximum PM2.5 levels are expected due to high nitrogen oxide emissions, from car exhaust and other sources, which destroy ozone. We will also include playgrounds and outdoor recreation facilities. Planned routes will cover South Bronx and lower Manhattan as well and the sampled routes will evolve to meet the community's interests.

The deployment will rely on three air quality forecast models (RAP-Chem, WRF-Chem, RAQMS) to inform our deployment so that they occur before, during and after a heat wave event. We are planning on 3 weeks of deployment (21 days that includes 21 July - 18 August 2023) to be coordinated with the CUPiDS campaign research flights which will occur around the same timeframe (15 July - 15 August 2023).


mesh bag
The POPS (NOAA CSL) measuring particulate matter, PAM (2B Tech) measuring particulate matter, POM (2B Tech) measuring ozone, and the mesh bag (to carry the instruments on a backpack) to be deployed for three weeks, every day, three times a day to capture the diurnal cycle.
Example of a CUPiDS flight plan that can be coordinated with the deployment of the personal monitors. Flight tracks cover the west side of, over, the east side of the Hudson River and over Central Park.

The POM uses the UV absorption at 254 nm technique to measure ozone. Its precision and its accuracy are greater than 1.5 ppb or 2% of the reading. The detection limit is 3 ppbv and the measurement interval is 10 s. It weighs 360 g without the battery and 450 g with the battery. Before being deployed, the POMs will be calibrated against NOAA CSL calibration units.

The PAM measures PM2.5 (fine particulate matter - tiny particles or droplets in the air - that are two and one half microns or less in diameter) using Plantower PMS7003 (laser scattering). The particle size range is 0.3-10 µm. The mass concentration range is 0-999 µm m-3. The count accuracy is 50% at 0.3 µm and 98% at 0.5 µm and above. The response time is less than 10 s. The PAM weighs 440 g.

The POPS is an optical particle sizer that uses a 405 nm diode laser to count and size particles between 0.14-3 µm of diameter. The counting efficiency above 140 nm is greater than 80% with a 1 s temporal resolution. It weighs ~800 g and has a limited power consumption (5W).