Monday, July 14, 2008

Air Pollution Monitoring reaches out to include The Woodlands Texas


We are on the radar so to speak, to see who is regionally affected by the ozone and hazardous airborne chemicals produced by our neighbors to the South and within our own county. Today, the Texas Forest Service announced the completion of an environmental tower in Jones Forest. It is part of the Houston-Network of Environmental Towers funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the University of Houston. This forms "a network of meteorological and chemical sensors in the Houston area to fill in key gaps in the current State/Federal air pollution monitoring network study of photochemical smog episodes in the Houston Galveston Area (HGA)." Regionally, we in The Woodlands are a part of the puzzle. What is our exposure during major smog release events and how do we contribute to the problem? Looking outside on the parkway at about 5PM tells me that we are probably producing our share of Ozone. Developing a good understanding of photochemical smog episodes in our area is essential since not only do such events represent a health hazard, but unlike the situation in a number of other major US metropolitan areas, such as Los Angeles, where peak Ozone levels have decreased significantly, less improvement in the number of ozone exceedances has been observed in the HGA."

H-NET is currently composed of five ground-based measurement sites: University of Houston (Main Campus), Houston Coastal Center, University of Houston - Sugar Land, Texas Forest Service - W. G. Jones State Forest, and West Liberty Airport forming a virtual "box" around Houston that fills in critical gaps in the existing air quality monitoring network.

In addition to providing real-time air quality data for previously unmonitored areas, another benefit of this site configuration is for most wind directions, the network will be documenting both upwind and downwind air pollution levels. This will help the UH study team to determine how much pollution is transported into our region, and how much is produced locally. The UH Institute for Multidimensional Air Quality Studies (IMAQS) and the Texas Learning and Computation Center (TLC2) have worked together to provide a public web site for dissemination of the measured air quality data (www.hnet.uh.edu). They are using this data to evaluate and improve air quality models. It will also facilitate the assessment of health impacts of pollutants on the citizens living in the HGA. The local general public benefits directly as the web site displays in a simplified format information about wind, temperature, relative humidity, rainfall, carbon monoxide and ozone that is made available by the H-NET team on a best efforts basis.

As part of the public outreach between the University of Houston and Texas Forest Service; John Warner, urban district forester, will be conducting several Project Learning Tree (PLT) workshops for educators themed “The Air Around You”. Educators will go through a six-hour workshop to become certified in PLT. Additionally they will learn to interpret the data taken by the monitoring station so they can in-turn instruct their students.

The air quality instrumentation is located on a 300’ tower behind the Conroe office giving the camera a 360 degree view of the forest canopy and horizon. It is relayed down to the climate controlled storage container at the base of the tower where computers collect and transmit data 24 hours – 7 days a week.

Being a part of this effort not only puts The Woodlands on the map in air pollution statistics and gives us insight into our own related health issues, it also gives our forest a better chance to survive in the long term. Health is defined in several ways, not just human.

Sources

  • Dr. Berry Lefer, University of Houston – Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
  • John R. Warner, CF, Texas Forest Service
Resources
  1. Texas Forest Service
  2. Gulf Star Grid - also has a weather station

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