DOI: 10.3390/su151612624 ISSN:

Air Quality Monitoring in Coal-Centric Cities: A Hybrid Approach

Simone Mora, Priyanka deSouza, Fábio Duarte, An Wang, Sanjana Paul, Antonio Berrones, Carlo Ratti
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Building and Construction

Despite the increasing time sensitivity of climate change, many cities worldwide still heavily rely on coal. The extraction, processing, transport, and usage of coal lead to deteriorated air quality, resulting in complex environmental and public health problems for the local communities. Mapping different pollution sources in coal-centric cities is not trivial due to the hyperlocal nature of air pollution and the often low-density network of air quality monitors. This study explores the air quality issues surrounding coal-centric cities using a combination of qualitative and quantitative data from reference-grade air quality monitors, low-cost sensors (LCSs) deployed on citizens’ vehicles, and community engagement activities. It explores how LCSs can be used to characterize air quality at a high spatio-temporal resolution and how this information can be used to decode people’s perceptions of air quality issues and elicit local knowledge. We evaluated our approach in Sparwood (Canada), and Oskemen (Kazakhstan) which are very different cities, but are both heavily dependent on coal. LCSs have been proven an efficient tool to identify pollution hotspots that traditional reference monitors miss, while workshop-based activities making use of data maps and coding tools have successfully elicited information about pollution sources from non-experts, helping collaborative sense-making and informing new LCS deployment strategies. Understanding air quality in coal-centric cities as a complex socio-technical phenomenon can enable the coal industry, city officials, and residents to engage in addressing air quality issues.

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