A deep breath of fresh, clean air is truly satisfying. Beyond that pleasure, the public benefits of clean air are enormous – fewer cases of lung cancer, asthma, and other respiratory ailments, and fewer pollutants in the environment which can harm plants and animals everywhere.
Air quality is important to every human being. For most of us, breathing is an unconscious action; we don’t think about what is in the air that we breathe. ATDD researchers study how pollutants get into and travel through the air, and how they affect human and environmental health. It’s important to understand these complex processes and maintain good air quality. After all, the atmosphere is a shared resource that doesn’t have boundaries or borders. Poor air quality in one location can affect communities and ecosystems elsewhere.
Scientists at ATDD develop and use computer-based models of the atmosphere to understand how air quality is affected by human and natural activities. These models are used to interpret measurements of atmospheric pollutants, to increase our understanding of how pollutants form and are removed from the atmosphere, and to forecast severe pollution episodes.
Rainfall and other precipitation types represent a major pathway for the removal of pollutants from the atmosphere. Measurements of the chemical constituents contained in precipitation are vital to quantify the amount of pollutants removed from the atmosphere as well as evaluate how these substances may impact the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems that receive these chemicals.
Diatomic nitrogen (N2) represents 78% of every breath we take, but other reactive forms of nitrogen (various nitrogen oxides and ammonia) are also present in the atmosphere. An overabundance of these reactive nitrogen species can negatively impact many types of ecosystems (e.g., acidification of coastal waters, eutrophication of lakes and streams, and reduction of biodiversity in forests). Scientists at ATDD conduct studies to better quantify and understand reactive nitrogen in the atmosphere.