Community Air Quality Data System Vision and Objectives

From Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP)

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Community Air Quality Data System Vision and Objectives


A sustainable, structured network of interconnected multi-organizational air quality data integration and analysis systems providing users ability to:

A) Query data across temporal, spatial and composition (chemical species or physical property) dimensions; and
B) Perform analysis functions and provide graphical presentation interfaces for a variety of user defined environmental and health welfare assessment needs

System Attributes:

  • Open web-based access to data using standard protocols and formats consistent with GEOSS conventions
  • Well documented and iteratively developed metadata accompanying data sources
  • Access to variety of data including routine surface based air quality observations, satellite data, emissions and modeling results
  • Harmonization of disparate data sets and enhancements through data integration processes
  • Minimization of redundancies; Support for well defined air quality applications


  • High level objectives (reason for having a community data system) include support for a variety of air quality related assessments including, but not limited to:
    • Model evaluation
    • Trends and accountability
    • Exposure and health effects studies
    • Ecosystem effects
    • Air quality management (regulatory and policy)
    • Air quality forecasting and public health warnings
  • Increase awareness and ease access to available air quality information through data interoperability
  • Reducing burden of routine data access and sub-setting operations to shift resources toward data interpretation and analysis
  • Increase data quality and value through exposure to and feedback from a broad user community
  • Guide EPA in planning and modifications to existing and emerging air quality data repositories and air quality data integration systems
  • Leverage existing data systems by improving overall effectiveness and efficiencies by reducing redundancies and increasing user community participation

Additional Context:

Air quality and related data are used for a variety of environmental assessments relevant to understanding the roles of air pollutants on human and environmental health and consequent improving of environmental states. Several events over the last decade have increased the need for access to and integration of a variety of disparate data sets. These events include, among many, of GEOSS, a community model of organizations and data systems addressing environmental assessments, the National Academy Sciences 2004 study on Air Quality Management – encouraging integration across pollutant categories, environmental media and temporal and spatial scales; assessments conducted by the task force on Hemispheric Transport of Air Pollutants (HTAP); enhanced collaborations across atmospheric and health effects science and operations communities generated by an explosion of particulate matter research and regulatory programs; an increase in space based observations with relevance to boundary layer air quality assessments; and numerous observation strategies developed in the U.S. and internationally. While the scientific and technical basis evolves rapidly to address modern environmental assessment needs; the attending collaborations, data harmonization and integration can be enabled by information technology solutions or compromised by lack of adequate attention to data systems interoperability.

Organizations have well defined missions that may not resonate well with another organization, yet there very likely is a shared need for basic underlying air quality data. Accordingly, the focus of the community data system addresses the basic raw data systems and systems that mange the movement, integration and relatively basic operations related to data passing and visualization. It is expected that individual organizations have terminal data analysis/presentation requirements fairly specific to their decision making needs. Consequently, this community system should be viewed as attending to data repositories (e.g., AQS, DataMart, CASTNET, NASA DAACS) and objective (i.e., short of specific analyses tailored to decision making needs) integration and visualization systems. In other words, there is no intent to cover the entire spectrum of data manipulations that end users desire, but to focus on a core of the basic data base and data integration systems feeding unlimited downstream mission specific decision support systems.


The community data system efforts have been catalyzed by a series of activities including the development of the ESIP air quality community; GEOSS related activities, including guidance generated by the GEOSS data and architecture committees, GEOSS interoperability demonstrations through using the federated air quality data system, DataFed, and a variety of agency sponsored GEOSS-oriented projects such as EPA’s advanced monitoring initiative (AMI) and NASA's air quality Decision Support projects. A February, 2008 air quality data summit in RTP, NC brought together a community of atmospheric, health, IT air quality management scientists and managers to begin strategizing a community air quality data system, the subject of this subsequent effort. A related air quality community cyberinfrastructure RFA funded through EPA GEOS AMI is under development to address some many interoperability concepts, using model evaluation for hemispheric transport as a test case. Internally, EPA-OAQPS is conducting an internal systems assessment to better position EPA data systems in a broader community system.