New Black Carbon Research Helps Advance Climate Solutions

AGU PRESS CONFERENCE: TUESDAY, DEC. 14, 1 P.M. RELATED TO A32C-01 · Wednesday, Dec. 15, 10:20 a.m. · 3008 Moscone West "BLACK CARBON: IMPACTS ON LOCAL, REGIONAL AND GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT AND CLIMATE" ED11A-0576 · Monday, Dec. 13, 8:00 a.m. - 12:20 p.m. · Poster Hall, Moscone South "CELLPHONES AS A DISTRIBUTED PLATFORM FOR BLACK CARBON DATA COLLECTION" Climate researchers have observed reductions in black carbon's warming effect in California, an unexpected benefit from two decades of the state's clean air laws. Black carbon, a form of particulate pollution associated with biomass burning and vehicle emissions, has been recognized as a major contributor to global warming. In another aspect of black carbon research, computer scientists have discovered that cell phones can be used as a real-time, ultra low-power black carbon data collection system. Scripps Distinguished Professor of Climate and Atmospheric Science V. Ramanathan Scripps Distinguished Professor of Climate and Atmospheric Science V. Ramanathan V. Ramanathan, distinguished professor of climate and atmospheric science at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego will present results from the IMPROVE monitoring network during a press conference at the 2010 American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting in San Francisco. The results show that annual average black carbon concentrations in California have decreased by about 50 percent over the past 20 years, in direct proportion to a decline in fossil fuel emissions. The study, which was led by Scripps researcher Ranjit Bahadur, will be published in the Dec. 14 issue of the journal Atmospheric Environment. "This study serves to confirm that some successes have already been achieved in combating climate change using existing, affordable remedies," said Ramanathan, who is a co-author of the California Air Resources Board (ARB)-funded study. "This study demonstrates that ARB's efforts to cut air pollution, whether by promoting cleaner cars or controlling agricultural burning, have significantly reduced threats to public health while also helping address climate change," said California Air Resources Board chairman Mary D. Nichols. "The more we learn about the atmosphere, the more it's clear that cleaning up the pollution that harms our lungs is also beneficial for slowing the rate of climate change." Ramanathan's Project Surya - which examines the effect of replacing wood- and dung-burning stoves in India with cleaner alternatives - is using mobile phone technology to create a valuable black carbon dataset. a researcher takes an image of an aerosol filter to upload to the server for analysis. Photo: UCLA A researcher takes an image of an aerosol filter to upload to the server for analysis. Photo: UCLA Nithya Ramanathan, assistant research professor of computer science at UC Los Angeles and daughter of the Scripps researcher, led two field campaigns to collect data in various environments using cell phones. The research team collected data in regions ranging from Southern California to rural northern India to test the system's capability to accurately detect indoor and outdoor black carbon concentrations for scientific monitoring. "We discovered that this widely available technology can help us overcome many of the traditional hurdles required to achieve high-quality field data collection," said Nithya Ramanathan. The research team used cell phones to take pictures of aerosol sampler filters. The snapshot, along with exposure time information, is sent directly to computer servers where it is immediately analyzed for ambient black carbon concentrations and emailed back to the scientists. With more than four billion cell phone users in the world today, Nithya Ramanathan's data collection system opens new doors for global health and environment monitoring.

Additional Contacts

Scripps contact: Annie Reisewitz (858-228-0526) or AGU Press Room

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