Sampling Low Air Pollution Concentrations at a Neighborhood Scale in a Desert U.S. Metropolis with Volatile Weather Patterns

Nathan Lothrop, Nicolas Lopez-Galvez, Robert A Canales, Mary Kay O’Rourke, Stefano Guerra, Paloma Beamer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Neighborhood-scale air pollution sampling methods have been used in a range of settings but not in low air pollution airsheds with extreme weather events such as volatile precipitation patterns and extreme summer heat and aridity—all of which will become increasingly common with climate change. The desert U.S. metropolis of Tucson, AZ, has historically low air pollution and a climate marked by volatile weather, presenting a unique opportunity. Methods: We adapted neighborhood-scale air pollution sampling methods to measure ambient NO2, NOx, and PM2.5 and PM10 in Tucson, AZ. Results: The air pollution concentrations in this location were well below regulatory guidelines and those of other locations using the same methods. While NO2 and NOx were reliably measured, PM2.5 measurements were moderately correlated with those from a collocated reference monitor (r = 0.41, p = 0.13), potentially because of a combination of differences in inlet heights, oversampling of acutely high PM2.5 events, and/or pump operation beyond temperature specifications. Conclusion: As the climate changes, sampling methods should be reevaluated for accuracy and precision, especially those that do not operate continuously. This is even more critical for low-pollution airsheds, as studies on low air pollution concentrations will help determine how such ambient exposures relate to health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3173
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022


  • Air pollution monitoring
  • Climate change
  • Oxides of nitrogen
  • Particulate matter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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