Human Health Impacts

It is no surprise that heavy air pollution causes lasting health damage. Highly toxic air levels can be as dangerous to humans as the effects of heavy smoking. Our scientists have developed an air-quality forecasting system that alerts residents of New Delhi about poor air quality days. Although we can’t improve the air quality yet, we can advise residents to stay indoors, reschedule activities, and take precautions to protect their health. We also study the connection between weather and spread of vector-borne diseases, such as zika, dengue, and meningitis, by designing a system that generates 14-day predictions of atmospheric conditions related to disease spread using computer models as well as satellite data. Mapping discrete locations of populations most vulnerable to extreme heat or storm-surge events informs decision makers how to best alert them to hazards, and communicate helpful resources.

Benefits and Impacts

With support from USAID, UCAR launched an initiative to print 3D weather stations that can fill observational gaps in developing countries. A single station takes about a week to print at a cost of $200 to $400.

photo credit Jeff Cutler, waves crashing on Nantasket Beach, Hurricane Sandy - creative commons license

Photo credit Jeff Cutler, waves crashing on Nantasket Beach, Hurricane Sandy - creative commons license

CRMe is being used within the Climate Science Applications Program’s Regional Climate Science for Adaptation group to link into other national laboratory-level projects, such as the Department of Interior North Central Climate Science Center at Colorado State University, projects for the USDA, World Bank Climate Knowledge Portal and the World Bank International Finance Corp.

WHATCH’EM is now being leveraged for use in other model-based studies funded by NASA, NIH, and DTRA to develop an early warning system for dengue risk.

Public health officials are now using this framework to reduce vulnerabilities.

The system helps decision-makers mitigate the risk of air pollution in Delhi and surrounding regions. The technology may be adapted to provide air quality forecasts for other polluted areas in developing countries, as well as for cities in the United States.

The ability to predict when and where outbreaks will occur would help allocate limited public health resources. This research is leading to better placement of care givers and medicines to reduce illness and fatalities.