Ian Faloona (UC Davis), The Importance of Seeing Turbulence, and its Multiscale Dependence, in Air Pollution Studies: Examples from California's San Joaquin Valley

February 13, 2019 3:30pm
MSA 7124


The fields of synoptic meteorology, boundary layer turbulence, and atmospheric chemistry seem to have originated from three distinct, more primitive branches of scientific inquiry, viz.: classical mechanics, aeronautical engineering, and analytical chemistry, respectively. These sub-disciplines of atmospheric science are often separated conceptually by their prevailing spatial scales (from continental down to molecular.) Yet despite their reticulate interplay in the atmosphere, and in particular within the boundary layer (the lowest portion of the atmosphere nearest the surface where the principal sources, and even sinks, of most air pollutants exist), expertise in these fields remains largely Balkanized. Even the most rudimentary explanations of air pollution episodes, dating back to the 1952 great smog of London, implicate the central importance of meteorological high pressure systems. However, this relationship turns out to be much more intricate than simply resulting from a lack of ventilation associated with (high pressure) anticyclones. Furthermore, the coupling between atmospheric dynamics and chemistry at all scales becomes even more pronounced in the presence of complex terrain - (in)famous examples include Los Angeles, California, Santiago de Chile, and Italy's Po Valley.) Here we summarize results from several airborne studies in California's San Joaquin Valley and show how turbulence in the boundary layer is related to the larger scale meteorological conditions and how this in turn impacts air chemistry in a region notorious for its obstinate air pollution problems, ultimately calling for a wider vision of air quality and climate change via concerted integration of the aforementioned sub-disciplines.