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A new approach for determining optimal placement of PM2.5 air quality sensors: case study for the contiguous United States

by   Makoto M. Kelp, et al.

Considerable financial resources are allocated for measuring ambient air pollution in the United States, yet the locations for these monitoring sites may not be optimized to capture the full extent of current pollution variability. Prior research on best sensor placement for monitoring fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution is scarce: most studies do not span areas larger than a medium-sized city or examine timescales longer than one week. Here we present a pilot study using multiresolution modal decomposition (mrDMD) to identify the optimal placement of PM2.5 sensors from 2000-2016 over the contiguous United States. This novel approach incorporates the variation of PM2.5 on timescales ranging from one day to over a decade to capture air pollution variability. We find that the mrDMD algorithm identifies high-priority sensor locations in the western United States, but a significantly lower density of sensors than expected along the eastern coast, where a large number of EPA PM2.5 monitors currently reside. Specifically, 53 of mrDMD optimized sensor locations are west of the 100th meridian, compared to only 32 PM2.5 from wildfires and high pollution events, with particularly high skill in the West. These results suggest significant gaps in the current EPA monitoring network in the San Joaquin Valley in California, northern California, and in the Pacific Northwest (Idaho, and Eastern Washington and Oregon). Our framework diagnoses where to place air quality sensors so that they can best monitor smoke from wildfires. Our framework may also be applied to urban areas for equitable placement of PM2.5 monitors.


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