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California ARB and NOAA Collaborating in $20M Research on Interaction of Air Pollution and Climate Change; “One Atmosphere” Approach

Schematic diagram of the trade-offs between the implications for regional air quality and global climate change of new policies for management of the atmosphere. The gray ellipse approximately represents the direction of current trends in the US. Source: NOAA. Click to enlarge.

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are collaborating in the $20-million CalNex research project to examine the nexus between air pollution and climate change.

CalNex is the culmination of three years’ preparation. The project builds upon the idea that air quality and climate change issues are linked through “one atmosphere”, an approach that demands coordination and multi-tiered approaches. In addition to studying the important issues at the nexus of the air quality and climate change problems, the goal of CalNex 2010 is also to provide scientific information regarding the trade-offs faced by decision makers when addressing these two inter-related issues.

Although separate programs are in place to research and manage both air quality and climate change effects, these problems are not separate and in fact are intimately connected. These connections arise because in many cases the agents of concern are the same, and in many cases the sources of the agents are the same or intimately connected.

...For example, surface ozone is both an air pollutant and a greenhouse gas. Also, aerosols not only have significant climate impacts, but they also constitute particulate matter (PM), an important air pollutant, are responsible for visibility degradation, and are important agents in acidic deposition. In many cases, efforts to address one of these issues can be beneficial to the other, but in other cases policies addressing one issue can have unintended detrimental impacts on the other.

The complex roles that ozone and aerosols play in the atmosphere provide examples of such trade-offs. Reductions in the emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and/or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to reduce ozone formation for improved air quality, also ameliorate climate impacts from ozone and VOCs. However, efforts to reduce emissions of PM and its precursors (SO2, NOx, VOCs, ammonia) for air quality improvement can lead to a further warming effect on the climate, because scattering of sunlight by aerosols masks as much as 50% of the present warming effect of greenhouse gases.

—2010 CalNex Science and Implementation Plan

In the CalNex 2010 study outlined here, NOAA researchers are studying several issues at the heart of the coupled air quality and climate change problems. California was chosen as the site for this first case study for a number of reasons, including its well-document air quality problems and leadership in addressing them, and in its efforts to address global climate change.

“Critical uncertainties remain in our understanding of 1) the processes by which primary emissions are transformed within and removed from the atmosphere, and 2) how aerosols interact with the radiation flux in the atmosphere.”
—CalNex Science plan

The CalNex collaborators have outlined a number of science questions for the project. They are intended to be 1) feasible to address in the context of the proposed study; 2) specific enough to provide a needed focus; but 3) general enough to cover the scientific issues of immediate policy interest. These questions fall into three broad categories: emissions; chemical transformation and climate processes; and transport and meteorology.

  1. How can we improve the emissions inventory for greenhouse gases, ozone and aerosol precursors including emissions from soil, ships, agriculture and other non-industrial or transportation related processes?

  2. What emissions (natural and anthropogenic) and processes lead to sulfate formation over California coastal waters and in urbanized coastal areas? What is the contribution from ship emissions? How does Southern California compare and contrast with the San Francisco Bay Area?

  3. What sources and processes contribute to atmospheric mercury concentrations in California?

  4. How important are chemical processes occurring at night in determining transport and / or loss of nitrogen oxides, reactive VOC and ozone? Do regional models in California adequately represent these processes and their effect on air quality? What measurements can help validate the use of satellite data for biogenic VOC and NOx emission inventories?

  5. What are the sources and physical mechanisms that contribute to high ozone concentrations aloft that have been observed in Central and Southern California?

  6. Are there significant differences between Central Valley and South Coast Air Basin precursors or ozone formation chemistry? Will meteorological and/or precursor differences between the Central Valley and the South Coast Air Basin lead to different chemical transformation processes and different responses to emissions reductions? What is the importance of natural emissions to the ozone formation process? Are there regional differences in the formation rates and efficiency for particulate matter as well?

  7. What are the impacts of aerosols in California on radiative forcing and cloud formation? What are the most important precursors and formation processes for secondary organic aerosol? What is the role of aqueous phase processes in atmospheric transformations?

  8. What are proper oceanic boundary conditions for coastal and regional atmospheric chemistry modeling? Are there variations in oceanic boundary conditions in northern and central California vs. the southern part of the state? What physical and chemical changes occur as a parcel of air moves from off-shore, through the shore zone, and inland?

  9. How best can we characterize and model air flow over coastal waters and the complex terrain of California? For example: what is the best representation of air flow in the southern San Joaquin Valley, particularly with respect to flow between the San Joaquin Valley and South Coast Air Basin versus recirculation north along the Sierra Nevada and Coastal ranges?

  10. What are the major deficiencies in the representation of chemistry and meteorology in research and operational models and how can models be improved through the collection of additional measurements? What physical and chemical processes are not captured well by available models? Is there an optimum grid resolution to capture all of the relevant physical and chemical processes that occur?

  11. What are the important transport corridors for key chemical species and under what conditions is that transport important?

  12. What are the relative roles of regional (North American) sources and long range transport (from East Asia) on aerosol forcing over California?

Along with recent efforts to address climate change, ARB is contributing its expertise in air pollution studies with decades of baseline air quality data, an on-going atmospheric monitoring capacity and existing research capabilities. NOAA brings its ability to rapidly study the atmosphere over large areas of ocean and land by employing large, richly instrumented, long-range aircraft, a fully capable oceanographic vessel and its experienced scientists.

Started in early May continuing through most of June, the project involves four airplanes, an ocean-going research ship, two land-based air monitoring super sites and more than 150 scientists. The project is employing:

  • Four aircraft: WP-3D, Twin Otter and CIRPAS’ Twin Otter from NOAA, and a King Air from NASA
  • A research vessel (NOAA’s Atlantis)
  • Two ground air monitoring super sites: Caltech, with more than 40 investigators, will focus on organic or carboneous PM and nighttime chemistry.
  • Arvin (Kern County), with 18 investigators, will provide a comprehensive suite of chemical measurements that will significantly improve the understanding of ozone and PM formation of in the San Joaquin Valley.

NOAA’s contribution of hardware and expertise is estimated at $15 million. California is contributing $5 million, as well as the expertise of their meteorological, modeling, monitoring and research staff. Researchers from all over the United States and Europe will also be on the teams collecting data.

The data collected will give scientists a better understanding of atmospheric-chemical transformations, climate processes, transport and meteorology. This will improve ARB’s methodologies for measuring greenhouse gases, traditional air pollutants and their precursors.

In addition, the study will improve ARB’s understanding of the atmospheric formation of ground-level ozone and PM that will improve air-quality models which in turn enables ARB to develop more effective control strategies.

Other specific benefits stemming from CalNex California will include:

  • Refining methods for determining greenhouse gas and air-pollutant emissions. The teams will look to interpret ambient CO2 measurements to provide feedback to the emissions inventory. They are able to avoid complications from background concentrations, multiplicity of sources and the absorption and release of CO2 by the biosphere. The use of aircrafts’ spatial coverage and resolution will provide valuable information on CO2 and other gases. Such data can be used to analyze emission trends, and develop methods to evaluate the effectiveness and potential of carbon sequestration, including natural, agricultural and forestry methods.

  • Improvement of Air Quality Modeling. ARB depends on air quality models to prepare strategies for reducing air pollution and complying with federal clean air standards. The State Implementation Plan is the compendium of strategies that must be submitted to the federal government. CalNex can provide key data that will benefit the state’s air quality models with three-dimensional, complementary measurements collected by the aircrafts, ship and ground sites. Each aircraft is not only a mobile monitoring platform and vertical profiler, but also a “supersite” with an extensive complement of technology that can characterize collected gas and particle chemicals. The quality of instrumentation and the advantages of range, speed and vertical profiling that an aircraft can accommodate will provide highly valuable information to refine air-quality models and ensure that upcoming SIPs are based on the best science.




This is a nice attempt to validate the funding of a department that fell on it's sword an EV decade world ago..


Oh, damn quantitative diagram - Fox News would accept it!!


Good intermediate step towards e-buses by 2015+?
Our city administration says that its buses will be all EVs by 2025 but not too many believe it. Modified trolley buses with quick charge points at many regular stops is part of the solution. Pure EVs would charge at each (bus runs) ends.

Sanity Chk

kelly: I too dream about how much further we'd be down the road to sustainable transportation if CARB hadn't hired that bozo from the fuel cell industry who pulled the plug on their zero-emission vehicle mandate.

What a colossal mistake it was to have let that happen, though, the real villains are the car makers who sued in the first place, and then crushed the EVs they said they couldn't make.


I suspect that if CARB had not screwed up all the EV efforts 10 of years ago, we would be up with the rest of the world on EVs.
- Oh wait, the Prius has been stagnant at ~2% US and 1% world wide for 10 years. We are ahead, at least on usage.

Maybe if CARB had not existed at all, we would not have spun our wheels for 10 years and become jaded on a technology that is, even now, not quite ready.


The Prius was/is Japan's best selling car and if one lives in a city(50+% do) or drives under a hundred miles daily - the EV tech has been there a dozen years.

The next extended gas gouge, or extended oil spill, will settle many arguments.


Plug-in hybrids were feasible in the 70's, and practical (for at least 10-20 miles AER) in the 90's. They could have been addressing both air pollution and petroleum consumption, but CARBs ZEV regulations ruled them out. CARB has been part of the problem for two decades plus.


PNGV showed Toyota and Honda that hybrids work. They made the cars and we made SUVs that were exempt from gas guzzler taxes. We have met the enemy and they are us.


"The teams will look to interpret ambient CO2 measurements to provide feedback to the emissions inventory. They are able to avoid complications from background concentrations, multiplicity of sources and the absorption and release of CO2 by the biosphere."

Sounds a lot like CARB "make work."


The EV tech that has been here a dozen years is apparently inadequate.

EVs of all kind, totaled, all together have ~3% or less of the market for a dozen years.

There is nothing to argue about – that is history.

To claim there was a lush market that no automaker wanted is foolish.

Some argue that EVs will become relevant in the next dozen years.

This is arguable. I hope they will.

I think they will become more than just relevant.

I just hope they do before oil prices punish us too much.

Sanity Chk

Toppa: There is a whole lot more at stake than the price of gas here. It's all about transitioning to a sustainable world. Carrying on as we always have will mean the end of civilization as we know it - possibly within a century. It's that simple.

Standard capitalistic approaches won't work by themselves since they are driven by short term profit motives, not the bigger "save-the-planet" picture. That is why governments must be heavily involved.

Individuals can, and do, act from altruistic motives. It doesn't take a lot of extra money to lower ones carbon footprint and to live in a more sustainable manner. We all just need to resolve to work toward that objective and keep at it. Not hard really, just a mind-set shift.

The more individual activism happens, the quicker the transition to a sustainable world.


Remember, that ~2% has been in a market which

  1. has been saturated with oil-company propaganda.
  2. has been crammed full of trucks and truck-equivalents.
  3. has been subject to a lot of "buy domestic" memes, when the major hybrid makers have been foreign and domestics have limited production to well under 10k/model/yr.
Get serious about reducing oil demand, and tell the public the bad news about oil that the elite already knows, and watch the MY2012 EV share hit 10% and upward.


What’s simple is blaming the car companies for the choices people make.
If carrying on as we always have will mean the end of civilization as we know it – being simple is not going to help.

What "oil-company propaganda" were we saturated with?

And what kind of person do you imagine would it persuade from buying a hybrid? Maybe one that believes the roads have been crammed full of trucks and truck-equivalents because that is what was on the car dealer's lots. Guess what - the roads are full of what the people buy, not what the auto makers make.

You want to force people to buy environmentally responsible vehicles – Of course, I believe that is required.

But what you are unable to see is that this has not been happening.
What makes you believe people have been forced to buy gas hogs?
What paranoia makes you believe that low sales of domestic hybrids is the fault of the seller?

You want to abandon the free market and you justify this by arguing that it does not exist anyway – you think we are all pawns.

These "buy domestic" memes you imagine - - more paranoia to avoid facing the fact that WE are choosing not to buy EVs.
You realize that the small cars we are buying are FOREIGN not domestic. So you think the buy domestic memes only keep us from buying foreign EVs?

I hate to ask, but what does “tell the public the bad news about oil that the elite already knows” mean?

Want the EV share shoot past 10%? Cut battery cost and weight per kW-Hr in half and watch.


As the transition out of the "climate change" campaign to "energy independence" is completed - it will be easier to sell EVs to the public. The reason is an energy campaign focuses on real problems at hand now. So, buying an EV made in NA means JOBS, energy security, less foreign oil imports, lower defense costs, cleaner enviro, and JOBS.

Sanity Chk

Governmental oil and other subsidies have helped get us into this mess, and are essential to helping get us out. Had the US Govt kept pushing the CAFE standards, had the price of gas at the pump reflected the cost of the environmental damage it causes, and had the CARB succeeded in keeping it's ZEV mandate, we would have been miles farther down the path toward sustainability.

Only the Govt, through deliberate economic policy, has the power to provide the incentives & disincentives to steer consumer buying and energy use habits in the time necessary to avert catastrophe. There are numerous precedents for this, just takes the right leadership and for the "Party of NO" to stop obstructing, and start working to make positive steps in the right direction.


CARB succeeded in poisoning the well with it's premature, ill advised ZEV mandate.

After more than 10 years of scientific advances on all fronts, still no automaker in the world has succeeded in making a viable EV. CARB has been a big part of the problem for two decades plus.

Until finally the Volt and Leaf?

No they will be tokens, like the Prius, for too many more years.

This IS, like income taxes, probably something that the Govt, must force on us.

But neither the "Party of NO" nor the "Party of TALK" has the will.


If we had an oil import fee and synthetic fuels starting in 1979 when they were proposed, we would be in much better shape. The history of the last 30 years is strewn with missed opportunities to make things better. Many believed that nothing needed to be done, that the market system would solve all problems.

Sanity Chk

Toppa: CARBs mandate was the action of the CA govt trying to force the issue!

The major auto makers responded with viable first production runs of EVs, with GM's EV-1 being so well received that people begged to buy them after the leases ran out. Don't fool yourself into thinking the technology requires scientific advances, it doesn't.

Viable electric cars were produced and marketed successfully early in the 20th century. Electric motor and solid state electronics control technology has been well advanced for this purpose for decades - just hasn't been applied to automotive use until CARB forced the issue. The EV-1 showed that battery technology at the time was sufficient to produce a car that would satisfy the needs of CA commuters.

Had CARB prevailed, I have no doubt that the auto companies would have developed increasingly better electric vehicles to the point where we would now have a variety of offerings from which to chose.


We will soon see how well the Leaf and other EVs do WITHOUT lots of public chargers. It is my prediction that we will NOT see the kind of response that we saw with the Prius. The Prius had and has utility. You can use it for everything that you use a car for now and get better mileage.

EVs might get some town/city people, but you need to get the commuter to reduce imported oil. You can get the commuter when employers install charging stations. If that is the case, then the push should be to get employers to install charging stations by making it easy and convenient for them to do so.

Sanity Chk

SJC: The vast majority of commuters live within 20 miles of work. The minimum range of the EVs slated for sale this year is 60 mi. The Leaf will have a range >= 100 mi.

Saying that charging stations are needed at work is akin to saying that I need to fill my gas tank when it's a down a quarter from full.

I maintain that commuters will flock to these in droves once they realize that the operational cost of EVs is 10% of that of the average ICE machine, and that they never have to stop at a gas station again.


Toppa: since GM.. already invested their 'serious' 1990's EV billions, why didn't they just sell the product - instead of 'lease and crush'?

An honest EV sales death in the open market would have vindicated GM's stance - but they saw that would never happen.

Expect more such antics ".. like a rock.."


The idea is to get the high mileage commuters. If most are within 40 miles round trip then the rest are farther, maybe much farther. Stating a statistic like 70% are within 20 miles one way does not show the distribution. If the other 30 out of 100 average 40 one way then you have a lot of people burning a lot of fuel. The idea is to use less batteries and not more, so chargers on the other end would be a good idea for mass adoption.

Sanity Chk

SJC: Perhaps a better strategy is to get as many EVs in service (70% of commuter market is massive) as possible to reap benefits of high production volumes. This will promote competition and R&D for better batteries and better overall cars.

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