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New air tracker allows Utah residents to trace pollution sources

Posted at 9:40 PM, Jun 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-19 14:29:15-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A new tool developed with the help of a University of Utah professor has a mission to help track air pollution and teach people about the air they're breathing.

"Air Tracker," unveiled earlier this month by the Environmental Defense Fund, is a unique tool that allows online users to track air pollution around them.

One of the experts who helped develop this cutting-edge technology was University of Utah professor John Lin, who works in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences.

"We've had a research tool to track the air for for a long time, for decades now, but there's a lot of barriers from using it, we run it on the university supercomputers, and there's a lot of technical tools required to run it," Lin explained. "But Environmental Defense Fund had the bright idea of trying to make this tool available to the average citizen."

Air Tracker relies on STILT, which stands for the Stochastic Time-Inverted Lagrangian Transport model, as well as weather forecasting models to predict the probability of pollution's path.

"So this tool provides the way to track the air," Lin said. "So what essentially the tool does, it tracks the air moving backward in time, and then marks out the potential pollution source region to your area."

The technology is so new that it's only being introduced in three cities so far; Salt Lake City, Houston and Pittsburgh.

Lin hopes that people in Utah take advantage of this new tool to learn more about the air they breathe.