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Climate and Environment

A New Network Of Sensors Will Show LA’s Pollution By Neighborhood

An image of USC professor William Berelson, wearing a green baseball cap and holding a cable, stands beside his  research assistant, Nick Rollins, on the rooftop of a school in Los Angeles. Rollins stands in front of a laptop and holds equipment to attach an air pollution sensor to the side of the building.
USC Earth Sciences Prof. William Berelson, left, and Nick Rollins, research lab specialist at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences attach a sensor to the side of a school. The sensor will measure neighborhood air pollution.
(Mike Glier
/
USC)
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A new network of air pollution sensors are now on the roofs of 13 LAUSD schools. Scientists will use the sensors to measure pollution throughout L.A. on a neighborhood level, including carbon dioxide, a harmful greenhouse gas.

“We really want to figure out CO2 distribution in the city and where it is coming from,” said Will Berelson, an earth science professor at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences who is working on the project.

“Is the move toward electric vehicles or the use of mass transportation, is that impacting the amount of CO2 that’s emitted by the city? To answer that question you have to make the baseline measurements to understand the rates of CO2 emission today,” Berelson said.

The opened grey box, about the size of a shoebox showing the sensors that will post pollution data automatically to the website.
The shoebox sized sensors will post pollution data automatically to the website.
(Mike Glier
/
USC)
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The network of sensors will also measure the concentration and movement of particulate matter, ozone, nitrous oxide, and other compounds that can impact respiratory health.

The sensor data will also help school officials determine when students should stay indoors to avoid particularly toxic air and aid in deciding where and what kind of trees to plant in Eastside communities, which has fewer trees than other neighborhoods

A map showing the locations of the thirteen air pollution sensors around L.A.
The school sites were chosen because they have internet access and cross different socioeconomic neighborhoods.
(William Berelson
/
USC)

Berelson says the 13 sites were chosen to cross varying socioeconomic areas of the city and different vegetation systems to help determine how much L.A.’s urban trees impact the air quality around them.

Data will be automatically sent from the sensors to researchers via the internet. Berelson said the general public will also be able to see real time data on their website this fall.

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The grey shoebox sized sensor hangs on the side of the building, ready to collect pollution data.
Scientists hope the data from the sensors will help determine where and what kinds of trees should be planted to help alleviate urban heat.
(Mike Glier
/
USC)
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