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UC Riverside wants to map out your neighborhood's smog levels

One of the Smog detection devices from UCR in Long Beach backyard
One of the Smog detection devices from UCR in Long Beach backyard

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California is at the beginning of what looks like a stretch of long, hot days. That probably means more smog alerts. 

Now, a new program is underway that's aimed at better understanding smog at the neighborhood level. Researchers at UC Riverside got money from NASA to develop a new kind of air pollution monitor.

And they have the perfect place to put them.

"Where we want them to be is right in the middle of the backyard," Darrel Jenerette, UCR professor, told Take Two's A Martinez.

Jenerette is the lead scientist on the project. Jenerette says it's all about finding information about smog on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood level.

"We're trying to really estimate what is the human experience of smog."

Jenerette and his team begin by mapping out the areas that they are most interested in studying. After that, they search for volunteers to help install the ozone detection devices in their backyards.

"It's a little give-and-take between finding the best design for the research question and then finding the citizen scientists who will give us the opportunity to actually conduct the research, he says."

Once they're installed, the machines measure ozone and temperature dynamics every ten seconds. Then they researchers combine that information with satellite data that ozone concentration measurements throughout the Southern California region.

"That should give us a better opportunity to estimate neighborhood scale variation and ozone and smog concentrations," Jenerette said.

The hope is that this new data will provide ideas to combat the smog in problematic areas. For instance, people who want to exercise in smoggy locations may be advised to do so at a lower altitude area to avoid getting sick. 

And it could also give scientists data to advise politicians on actions that would help curb the smog. "We want to make this a better Southern California and we want these results to contribute to improving urban lives throughout the world," Jenerette says.  

To find out how you can get a smog detection device installed in your backyard, check for an upcoming workshop near you.

Or call the Riverside-Corona Resource Conservation District at 951-683-7691, ext 223 or 207; or the Chino Basin District at 909-626-2711.

Press the blue play button above to hear the full interview.