Air Quality

The air quality group at LAE seeks to understand how aviation has, does, and will impact air quality at the local and global scales.


The Challenge

Air pollution is responsible for millions of early deaths each year, and every human activity – from manufacturing, to agriculture, to aviation – plays its part in this problem. As aviation grows as an industry, so too will the effect it has on air quality. Under existing conditions, aircraft emissions are thought to be responsible for around ten thousand premature deaths per year. An open question is how this number will evolve in the face of a changing background, with factors ranging from new aircraft engine technologies to the effects of a shifting climate on the chemistry of air pollution.


LAE Research

Air quality impact identification, quantification, and analysis has been a core research focus of LAE since its inception. Understanding the effects that aviation has on this problem demands an understanding of air quality at all scales, from local questions of dispersion around airports up to the problem of intercontinental pollution plumes. This broad scope has resulted in an equally broad set of research topics being investigated at LAE. Our air quality research aims to:

  • Continuously improve knowledge and understanding of current-day impacts of aviation on air quality. This includes not only the aggregate, global impacts on fine particulate matter and ozone, but also how different regions are affected by aviation, and how those regions affect one another.
  • Project impacts of aviation into the future. Aviation is a rapidly growing industry, and with background conditions projected to change dramatically over the coming 10, 20, 50, or 100 years, we expect to see equally dramatic changes in the effects that aviation might have on public health.
  • Characterize the interactions with, and contributions of, all sectors which can influence or interact with aviation emissions. Our research has provided insight into air quality issues ranging from impacts of the Volkswagen emissions scandal to the contributions of different sectors to the burden of disease in the US.

Detailed results of past work can be found here.