Donaghy forecasting impacts of globalization on air quality

April 4, 2012

Kieran Donaghy, CRP chair, has been making significant contributions to pioneering research efforts that will help develop essential tools for planners.

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection (EPA) solicited assistance with a project titled Future Air Quality Analysis and Decision Support Tools in Light of Global Change Impacts and Mitigation. With colleagues Natalie Mahowald from the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Max Zheng of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Peter Hess of Biological and Environmental Engineering, Donaghy responded to the EPA’s request and is developing a method for simulating regional air quality outcomes under potential future conditions.

The method developed by Donaghy combines multiple simulation models: it links global climate chemistry models and regional air quality models, incorporating dynamic commodity flow, transportation, and emissions models which account for changes in infrastructure that might result from economic pressures or local and national policies. The objective is to be able to predict the interactions of climate, land use, the economy, transportation infrastructure, technology, power, fuel sources, emissions, and policy decisions.

Donaghy’s component of the project is focused on the creation of a dynamic commodity-flow model that characterizes the behaviors of shippers and carriers associated with emissions over space and time. The idea is to use “spatial time-series data” to forecast emissions patterns produced by structural changes. However, a tremendous amount of groundwork has been required to even generate such data and that has been an important aspect of Donaghy’s work thus far. Seeking out those involved in similar exercises, including graduate students, has helped propel some of this work forward. In particular, Donaghy notes that the contributions of Jialie Chen, a Ph.D. student in Regional Science, have been invaluable. Donaghy and Chen recently presented preliminary results of their research at the National Urban Freight conference in Long Beach, California.

The project is funded for a period of four years and will culminate with the transfer of all data and modeling techniques to the EPA.