Matthew Coggon

Research Chemist

Tropospheric Chemistry

NOAA Chemical Sciences Laboratory
325 Broadway, R/CSL7
Boulder, CO 80305 USA

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My research is focused on understanding the emissions and chemical transformation of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in Earth's atmosphere. I study and quantify anthropogenic and natural emissions that lead to the formation of hazardous pollutants, such as ozone and secondary organic aerosol. I measure VOCs using a state-of-the-art proton-transfer-reaction mass spectrometer, which we deploy on aircraft and mobile laboratories to measure emissions from various sources. We have targeted emissions from wildfire plumes, concentrated animal feed lots, oil and natural gas development, vehicle tailpipes, populated urban centers, cooking emissions, and forested regions of the Western U.S.

Current Work

Currently, I am studying the atmospheric chemistry of wildfire smoke and urban pollution.

(1) Wildfire Emissions

Biomass burning is a major source of particulate matter and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to Earth's atmosphere. In the Western United states, the frequency and intensity of wildfires has increased, leading to higher incidents of hazardous air pollution in populated urban areas during the summer months. Since 2016, our lab has been studying the chemical complexity and atmospheric chemistry of wildfire emissions with an aim of understanding how these emissions lead to the formation of ozone and PM2.5, which are criterion pollutants that impact human health. Our work began with the Firelab 2016 campaign, which evaluated the the emissions and variability of VOCs and reactive nitrogen species, as well as the atmospheric chemistry of key VOCs emitted from fires, such as furanoids.

In summer 2019, we participated in the FIREX-AQ field campaign to characterize wildfire VOCs. We deployed our mass spectrometer onboard the NASA DC-8 aircraft and sampled smoke in and around large wildfire plumes to understand how much these emissions impact downwind air quality. We are currently analyzing these data in order to improve models used to simulate air quality. For more information about our work on wildfire chemistry, see our StoryMap.

(1) Urban Pollution

Poor air quality impacts major cities across the world. For decades, vehicles emissions were the dominant source of air pollution in US cities. However, regulations and improvements in technology have drastically reduced vehicle pollution. For example, VOCs emitted from vehicle tailpipes have decreased by a factor of 100 from their 1960s levels in major cities like Los Angeles. Air in LA is much cleaner than it used to be, but there are still days in which air quality is unhealthy. Work at NOAA and CIRES has shown that in the modern atmosphere, emissions from consumer products (e.g. personal care products, paints, and cleaners) are just as likely to contribute to urban air pollution as vehicle tailpipe emissions. In Boulder CO, we have found that evaporation of deodorant and hair care products can lead to VOC emissions that are comparable to regional emission rates of certain pollutants from vehicle tailpipes, such as benzene.

In 2018, we deployed our mass spectrometer on a mobile laboratory to measure consumer product emissions in New York City. Our recent work has shown that these emissions significantly contribute to urban ozone pollution. In 2021, we measured air quality in Las Vegas, NV and Los Angeles, CA and found that cooking emissions are also an important component of the VOCs emitted to urban areas. These emissions are observed in cities across the US and highlights that air quality in most major cities is impacted by a wide variety of sources.

We recently completed a large aircraft campaign called AEROMMA which was designed to determine how these and other sources influence the chemistry of the modern urban atmosphere. For more information about our work on urban air quality, see our StoryMap.


B.S. Chemical Engineering, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 2010
PhD. Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, 2015

Current Topics

Biomass burning emissions
Urban VOC emissions
VOC atmospheric chemistry

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

last modified: May 8, 2024