Fresno State researchers probe Central Valley’s ozone pollution
August 1, 2007
• Trying unique method to gather data
• It’s not the Goodyear blimp
Segun Ogunjemiyo prepares instruments to go aloft over Fresno to measure ozone pollution. (Fresno State photo)
Researchers and geography students at California State University, Fresno, are using unique methods to study Central Valley air pollution problems.
They’re flying a 16-foot-long orange blimp high above campus to measure ozone levels, which in high concentrations can cause heart and respiratory problems. Findings ultimately will be published and made available to policymakers.
The effort is significant because ozone readings done by other government organizations typically are taken at fixed locations, says Segun Ogunjemiyo, assistant professor of geography and the project’s co-principal investigator.
The blimp and its accompanying monitoring device, called a tethersonde, can ascend to 2,000 feet and monitor pollutants at various altitudes. It also reads air pressure, wind speed and direction, and relative humidity.
“There is no other research in the Central Valley that’s examining the ozone profile this way,” says Mr. Ogunjemiyo. “We’ll consider whether ozone is a result of activities in the Valley or whether it’s imported. This gives us the ability to see what’s coming in.
“The whole idea is to devise abatement strategies. If you have no idea how ozone is produced, you can’t develop any mechanisms to reduce it,” he says.
Mr. Ogunjemiyo, who has developed a new geography course on air pollution, has been taking readings since May. This summer, he and student researchers have been conducting ozone readings up to three times a week. Sunshine and hot weather lead to high levels of the pollutant.
Mr. Ogunjemiyo says he will continue to monitor ozone twice a week during the fall semester, after which readings will be conducted on particulates. That matter, which is generated by vehicles, power plants and wood burning, for example, is in its highest concentration in the winter.
Monitoring the balloon’s ascent on a recent morning, senior environmental geography major Michelle Himden says the hands-on experience is valuable as she prepares for graduate school.
“This will show that I can gather data and write research based on it,” she says. “It’s a better way to learn than just reading a textbook.”