Here's the latest news from AirUCI — our events, our people, our science.



Thursday, October 15, 2020

AirUCI faculty Steve Davis is quoted in an article in Scientific American on the drop in CO2 emissions due to the COVID virus.  Global emissions fell 1,550 million metric tons in the first half of 2020, according to a study published yesterday in the journal Nature Communications, the most since the end of WWII, underlining the depths of the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic this year.
“Considering how disruptive the pandemic has been in all our lives, it seems like a small number,” said Steve, who contributed to the study. “The task of decarbonizing our planet will not mean just changes in personal behavior but changes in the energy structure.”  Read the article

Monday, October 12, 2020

AirUCI faculty Jack Brouwer's decade long research into storing energy using hydrogen is attracting new attention.  HIs 2016-2020 campus demonstration project, in conjunction with the Southern California Gas Company, was a success. it made renewable hydrogen from solar power using an electrolyzer, then took that renewable hydrogen, injected it into our natural gas grid, then delivered it through our natural gas grid to a natural gas combined cycle plant to make partially decarbonized electricity from it.
The energy industry’s interest in using power-to-gas as a storage vehicle comes as a way of achieving a grid that runs predominantly on intermittent renewables, yet will require large amounts of storage to smooth out supply for when the sun isn’t shining and wind isn’t blowing.  "If you need to store terawatt hours of energy — which is what the grid will need if it’s 100% renewable — it’s going to be way cheaper to store it in the form of hydrogen," Jack said.  Read the article

Friday, October 9, 2020

AirUCI faculty Steve Davis is co-author of a study which shows that replacing coal powered energy generating plants with natural gas powered plants may not have the intended effect of reducing global warming gases.  While burning natural gas reduces by half the CO2 released into the atmosphere, the emissions and methane leaks from new gas plants zero out the CO2 cuts achieved from closing coal plants.
The new study marks one of the first major attempts to measure the cumulative lifetime emissions from the U.S. power sector since the fracking boom shifted the majority of electricity production to natural gas. "The increased reliance on gas plants has slashed current emissions, but it has extended the runway, and the tradeoffs are negating each other,” said Steve. Read the article

Thursday, October 8, 2020

AirUCI faculty Michael Prather was among a group of international researchers who recently completed the most thorough review yet of nitrous oxide from emission to destruction in the planet’s atmosphere.  Their work, published in Nature, documents the details of human-sourced N2O emissions and how they have intensified by 30 percent over the past four decades, the dominant share coming from synthetic nitrogen fertilizers and animal manure used in agriculture.
“Nitrous oxide emissions are increasing faster than any scenarios considered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – so fast that if left unchecked, they along with carbon dioxide will push the rise in global mean temperature to well above 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels, the nominal goal of the Paris climate agreement,” Michael said.  More details         Read the article in Nature

Monday, October 5, 2020

AirUCI faculty Annmarie Carlton is a plenary speaker at AAAR’s annual 2020 meeting in Raleigh, NC.  In addition, several AirUCI students and postdocs will be giving talks and poster presentations at the meeting.  Due to the pandemic, this will now be a virtual meeting to be held October 5-9.  Annmarie's talk title is "The Clear Sky Bias in Atmospheric Chemistry".  Details

Monday, October 5, 2020

AirUCI faculty Mike Kleinman is extensively quoted in an Orange County Register article about the efficacy of air filters in areas affected by wildfire smoke.  He explains that forest fires adversely affect air quality for two reasons: The first is due to the generally short-term exposure to microscopic particles that result from the fire, which irritate soft tissue like eyes, throats, and lungs.  The second is the gas phase from the fire which contains carbon monoxide and chemicals that are known to be carcinogens. 
Mike says air filters can help if buyers select HEPA filters and avoid those that generate ozone (which are banned in California).  “Probably the best evidence that I’ve seen is for small air filter units that recirculate the air in a given room and remove some of the pollutants,” he says. “You can reduce the level of particulates in a room quite substantially.”  Filters attached to heating and air conditioning systems have also been shown to reduce indoor particle exposure substantially.  Read the article

Thursday, October 1, 2020

AirUCI faculty Mike Kleinman is part of a research team studying the effects of e-cigarettes and other vaping on health. They are warning that e-cigarettes with heating elements can cause ‘significant’ damage to the lungs. “Within an hour of beginning an experiment, we observed evidence of severe respiratory distress, including labored breathing, wheezing, and panting," said Mike. "After analyzing lung tissue from subjects in the study, we found them to be severely compromised and observed other serious changes such as lung lesions, red blood cell congestion, obliteration of alveolar spaces, and pneumonitis in some cases."  Read the article

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

AirUCI faculty Steve Davis is co-author on a new report in Environmental Research Letters that describes how China's reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions may actually help increase global warming.  That’s because the same sulfur dioxide particles that come from coal burning and cause respiratory problems in humans also reflect sunlight, which cools the planet.  “It’s one of these tradeoffs that people have known about before, but we put some numbers on it,” says Steve. 
Read the story

Monday, September 28, 2020

AirUCI's Allison Vander Wall (Finlayson-Pitts group) has tied for third place in the Wagner Award for Women in Atmospheric Chemistry presented by the Desert Research Institute.  Masters or Ph.D candidates apply for consideration, then papers they have published in scientific journals are evaluated for originality of ideas, how well the topic relates to real-world atmospheric issues, and how well the research is defined in the article.  Allison recently received her Ph.D so this is a wonderful affirmation of her exceptional abilities both in the lab and in publications.  Congratulations, Allison!

Friday, September 18, 2020

AirUCI faculty Don Blake is quoted in a September 18, 2020 article in Pro Publica exposing the dangers of unmaintained oil wells in California's Central Valley and elsewhere.  Thousands of aging wells crowd the Kern County landscape three hours from the coast, where oil companies inject steam at high pressure to loosen up heavy crude.  This process regularly causes oil to suddenly shoot out of the bare ground in Kern County and other places far away, polluting the soil, water, and air, adversely affecting agriculture, and risking the health of workers and nearby residents as well as local livestock and wildlife.
“Every time you push oil through an open pathway to the surface, it’s like opening a bottle of soda,” says Don , who has tracked air pollutants around the world, including in Kern County.  Loopholes in regulations and uneven oversight have protected oil industries from violations of state and federal law.  Read the article