N.C. A&T Faculty Member Participates in American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting

By Jamie Crockett / 12/17/2019 College of Science and Technology, Physics

N.C. A&T Faculty Member Participates in American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting

SAN FRANCISCO (Dec. 17, 2019) – The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that approximately 7 million people die annually due to outdoor and household air pollution, and nearly 1 million of those deaths are concentrated in the African region.

Understanding and quantifying that pollution is critical to resolving it and saving lives. Solomon Bililign, Ph.D., a professor of physics at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, led an international team from Ethiopia, Botswana and Appalachian State University in a critical proof-of-concept study resulting in measurements suitable for long-term aerosol monitoring in Africa, which they presented last week at the American Geophysical Union annual conference in San Francisco – the world’s largest scientific gathering.

The team’s measurements are consistent with satellite measurements from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). Researchers used custom-built handheld sun photometers — instruments that measure the amount of direct sunlight — and particulate matter (PM) sensors that help detect air particles, some of which are made up of chemicals that contribute to health risks.

African cities experience a decline in air quality as pollution increases because of several contributing factors including using biomass for energy production, a rise in car ownership as well as population growth.

“Changes in climate and air quality have the most adverse impacts on poor and minority communities by affecting health and mortality,” said Bililign. “Although Africa is experiencing rapid population growth—the fastest in the world—we have had a limited understanding of the extent of these issues.”

From June 2018 to Nov. 2019, the team used these instruments in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Palapye, Botswana to measure how aerosols obstructed the amount of sunlight and how they compared to satellite measurements. The WHO Air Quality Guidelines for PM10 and PM2.5 air pollution levels cannot exceed annual limits of 20 mg/m3  and 10 mg/m3 respectively. The study revealed:

  • PM5 limits were exceeded, however, PM10 were not.
  • High aerosol amounts were noted in the winter and lower in the summer for both PM5 and PM10.
  • The largest increase documented was during rush hours.

The first year for this research was supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) International Research Experience for Students (IRES) program grant and aligned with AGU’s mission to “promote discovery in Earth and space science for the benefit of humanity.”

Media Contact Information: jicrockett@ncat.edu