Keating: EPA Air Quality GEO Plan

From Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP)

Keating: EPA Air Quality GEO Plan


7 November 2007

General Approach & Objectives

This proposal addresses the needs of two air quality-related decision-making contexts—assessment and forecasting—and focuses on enhancing capability of existing and emerging air quality information systems. A series of tasks are identified that will build upon the air-related AMI pilot projects and related efforts to advance the formation of GEOSS consistent with the U.S. IEOS, the U.S. Air Quality Assessment and Forecasting NTO Plan, the IGACO Strategy, the GEOSS 10-Year Implementation Plan, and the GEO Capacity Building Strategy.

This proposal targets a well-defined set of potential U.S. and international users of GEOSS. For forecasting applications, the primary audience consists of partners of AIRNow, including national, state, and local air quality forecasters and media outlets within North America. A secondary audience consists of air quality forecasters in developing countries that need near real-time data management and analysis capabilities. For assessment applications, the primary audience consists of air quality modelers and analysts at air quality management agencies and research institutions globally that are evaluating air quality models, characterizing impacts of existing air pollution control policies, and designing future air quality policies. Secondary audiences for relevant air quality assessment information are the public health and ecological effects research communities.

The proposed tasks build upon a core set of 12 air-related FY06 and FY07 AMI pilot projects, which are focused on enabling data access, demonstrating air quality data integration, and enhancing data value to inform decision-making. The tasks will complement and leverage considerable investments being made outside of AMI that are relevant for development of GEOSS and its air quality applications, including but not limited to the WMO Information System, NASA’s 3-D Air Quality System,, AIRQuest, RSIG, and WRAPtss. Bringing together the data, tools, and knowledge-base developed in the core air-related AMI pilots and related efforts, the proposed tasks help to

•create a foundation for improving interoperability by documenting best practices for air quality applications and investing in the standardization of key tools and datasets

•assist users in accessing, analyzing, and understanding observations relevant for their decision-making or analytical contexts by developing and demonstrating operational examples, which are also interoperable and portable to other countries

•disseminate information and train users through existing outreach and training mechanisms within the U.S. air quality forecasting and assessment community

Proposed Tasks

Task 1: Develop a Best Practices Guide for GEOSS Air Quality Applications

For even the most knowledgeable experts, it is a challenge to understand the myriad formatting, documentation, and interoperability standards that may be applicable to a given GEOSS application. Furthermore, emerging applications may create issues that are not adequately addressed by existing standards. The need for improved conventions was clearly defined in the Air Quality NTO. Therefore, FY08 efforts will continue current dialogues, across multiple U.S. agencies, to ensure that the products of the 12 core AMI air projects and other related efforts are consistent with the applicable EPA, U.S. GEO, and international standards.

In FY08, building upon FY07 efforts, we propose to develop a Best Practices Guide that will identify relevant standards for data and tools used in air quality forecasting and assessment applications. The Best Practices Guide will also address the archiving and accessibility for relevant data repositories at EPA, NOAA, NASA, and DOE. Finally, the Guide will explore tools and methods, such as the tool for Climate and Forecast (CF) Naming Conventions, for enabling existing resources to adopt the standards (or be “translated”). Finally, the Best Practices Guide will articulate some general principles for guiding future investments in air quality-related GEOSS components.

A total of $50K of FY08 funds has been budgeted for this purpose.

Task 2: Standardization

Following Best Practices, we proposed to invest in modifying key tools and datasets to increase their usability and portability. The first priority will be the creation of a portable, standardized version of the software behind AIRNow, EPA’s successful public gateway to air quality information, to be implemented in other countries. The United States will announce the development of this new version of AIRNow at the Earth Observations Summit in November 2007 and will invite the GEO community to provide input into its design. The first pilot implementation of the new system will be in Shanghai, China, because of interest, availability of extensive surface data, and ongoing EPA collaborations. Shanghai is interested in having such a system in place prior to the 2010 World Expo. A related “all hazards forecasting” effort organized through the World Meteorological Organization is also proceeding in Shanghai in advance of the Expo. The AIRNow project will be coordinated and integrated with this effort to the extent possible.

The existing AIRNow software system has evolved over time and is not portable or customizable. The new international version will provide the basic features of the existing AIRNow system (data processing, quality control, system monitoring, mapping, and information services) and will be customizable for the available data and systems in a given location. The new version will be designed to be interoperable, flexible, and sustainable, and will meet accepted standards and conventions. It will be designed to interface with a variety of existing international air quality data sources and information systems, including GEONetCast, WMO’s GTS and WIS systems, and available local data.

The FY08 funds available from the AMI Air Theme ($350K) will contribute a portion of what is needed to create the system. $100K of FY07 AMI IT money has already been committed to the initial design phase of this project. An additional $150K is needed (either from AMI IT funds or FY09) to complete the pilot in Shanghai. Further investments will be needed to support other implementations.

Task 3: Develop and Demonstrate Operational Use Cases

For users to be able to harness the power of GEOSS, they must be able to access, analyze, and understand the data relevant for their decision-making or analytical context. Building upon the 12 core AMI projects and other related efforts, we propose to develop exemplary operational systems that support data access, integration, analysis, and visualization for specific decision making contexts and needs identified in the Air Quality NTO. These “operational use cases” will be functional systems for specific contexts, complete with documentation and instructional materials for target user audiences. A total of $600K has been budgeted to be divided among these three use cases.

Case A: Model Evaluation and Intercomparison

This case will focus on comparison of models to observational measurements and comparisons between models. The work will build on the datasets, tools, and insights being developed through EPA’s internal work and through an on-going, well-defined international effort to evaluate global and regional models. The resulting tools and data will be an excellent contribution to the international GEOSS and applicable to other scales, including States, Regions, and other countries.

Where applicable, this effort will build upon EPA’s own efforts to develop the Air Model Evaluation Tool (AMET), the PAVE-VERDI visualization tool, and the Remote Sensing Information Gateway (RSIG).

The effort will also contribute to and leverage ongoing model evaluation and intercomparison efforts under the international Task Force on Hemispheric Transport of Air Pollution (TF HTAP). The Task Force effort is bringing together scientists and policymakers from the 51 LRTAP (Convention on Long-Range Transport of Air Pollution) member countries and others in the Northern Hemisphere. The model intercomparison effort is investigating the inter-model differences in intercontinental transport air pollution with a well-defined set of variables, including model type, emission inventory, background concentrations, and perturbation to emissions. An intercomparison of results for transport of ozone, fine particles, and nitrogen compounds has been completed. Upcoming phases of the intercomparison will focus on additional species, as well as extensive comparison of modeled results with observational data.

The precise scope of this case will depend on the status of other projects. To support the TF HTAP effort, multiple proposals have been submitted to the European Commission and NASA to develop flexible, interoperable systems to enable intercomparison of global and regional models and satellite and aircraft observations, and the direction this case takes will depend on which of those proposals are funded. The most relevant proposals are 1) the development of a global database of relevant in-situ ground-based monitoring data, 2) the development of a database of observations from aircraft field missions and guidance for comparison of the data to models, 3) the development of a comparable database of relevant satellite data, and 4) an interactive model intercomparison tool. Funding appears likely for 1) and 2), placing the priority for investment from AMI FY08 Air Theme on 3) and 4). Further planning needs to be completed to prioritize and allocate resources between these two efforts.

Case B: Air Quality Reanalysis (Assessment and Forecasting)

The AMI projects are focused on improving scientific understanding and its application to environmental health decision-making. While individual projects focus on specific approaches and applications, the overall AMI goal is to apply the outcomes of these efforts to support the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS). Examples of value-added tasks include translating available data into meaningful health and ecosystem indicators or combining data with modeling and analysis tools to perform source attributions and determine accountability. These activities rely on combination of disparate data types in a “reanalysis” of original data. Reanalysis is highly valuable to inform analyses and decisions, and is central to the AMI Air Theme system-of-systems plans. The goal of this task is to encourage such reanalysis and promote its operational use.

In the short term, reanalysis focuses on air quality assessment, such as assimilation of diverse observational data into models to best describe the state of the atmosphere at a given point and time. As such capabilities are improved for many locations, species, and indicators, reanalysis for assessment will lead to improved forecasting knowledge and capabilities.

To determine the appropriate short-term focuses for available FY08 funds, the AMI Air Theme is working with EPA contacts on the AMI projects to specifically identify the outcomes of the current AMI projects, including all updates since proposal. This survey of the AMI projects will help us better understand what each project will complete without further investment, what the plans are for the future, and how it will or could complement other AMI projects and ongoing work. AMI projects are developing a range on online tools, model improvements and offline tools, enhanced datasets, and much improved knowledge about atmospheric processes. Valuable short-term AMI Air Theme investments may include:

•Improving accessibility of a tool or dataset, such as hosting a tool at a more accessible site like DataFed, or adding data to an online database like AIRNow or RSIG;

•Improving usability of a tool, to ensure that users with the knowledge to use the tool will not be hindered by data formats or software requirements;

•Ensuring long-term access, storage, and updates for a tool or database;

•Incorporating new understanding from a local or regional project into national or global tools and datasets;

Because there are a number of promising investments that could help AMI results cross the bridge from pilot project to system-of-systems inclusion, the AMI Air Theme will likely fund several ideas. Through continuing conversations with the project teams, the Air Theme will determine which projects can achieve reanalysis goals with additional FY08 money.

Case C: Emissions Inventories

The accuracy of air quality assessments and forecasts relies, in part, on the quality and completeness of emission inventory inputs. Improvements in emissions inventories can be facilitated by improving access to available emissions information at a range of geographic scales and enabling comparison of emissions estimates to observations and modeled concentrations. NEISGEI, an AMI FY06 project, has begun to create this kind of capability and will be the focus of this use case.

The goal of the NEISGEI project ( is to create a web-based distributed network of emissions data and tools. To date, NEISGEI has created a web portal which enables access to emission data and analysis tools for researchers and policymakers through web interfaces, using the framework of data access and analysis services. The tools allow comparison of multiple emission inventory databases through an interface that regrids the data to allow better visualization, mapping, and data comparison. By the end of 2007, NEISGEI is expected to enable access to a variety of emission datasets, including the latest version of the U.S. National Emissions Inventory, new data from EPA on fire emissions, data from the multi-state air quality Regional Planning Organizations, global inventories from EDGAR and RETRO, and modeling data from the HTAP intercomparison. As it reaches maturity, NEISGEI promises to be a valuable tool that enables users to access, analyze, and evaluate emission inventory data, as well as collaborate with other researchers and policy-makers.

This use case will further the development of NEISGEI and will promote its interaction with and leveraging of the European emissions inventory projects GEIA (Global Emissions Inventory Activity) and ACCENT (Atmospheric Composition Change, The European Network of Excellence). Future work will also include comparison of satellite data, land use, and other activity patterns with emission inventories, for validation and updating the inventories.

The investment from the AMI Air Theme is expected to leverage additional investments in NEISGEI from OAR.

Task 4: Coordinate Outreach and Education Efforts

Outreach and education are integral parts of the above tasks. The outreach and education aspects of the tasks are focused on increasing awareness and utilization of these emerging air quality information tools and systems. Therefore, each of the tasks funded under the AMI Air Theme will address plans for reaching target audiences and user groups, including forecasting and media partners of AIRNow, air quality forecasters in other countries, modelers and analysts at air quality management agencies and research institutions, and the public health and ecological effects research communities.

The goals outreach and education for these tasks is ensuring that the potential users of the data, information, and systems are not only aware of AMI outcomes, but able to leverage them to address air quality questions. The outreach efforts of each task will focus on reaching the target audiences through existing venues, including internal EPA meetings, national conferences of scientists and policymakers, the National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA), and the Regional Planning Organizations (RPOs).