Government of Nova Scotia
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Environment

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Air

Presentations: Air Quality Forum

What is air quality?

This interactive presentation will offer a foundation of basic knowledge that will enable you to better understand and conceptualize the complexity of air-quality issues that will be presented during the Forum. The participants will be led through fundamentals of chemistry; the structure of the atmosphere and the processes that move pollutants around; the different sources and types of air pollution; and the different methods for measuring air quality.

What is the quality of air in Nova Scotia?

Air quality in Nova Scotia may vary by location, time, season and weather conditions. This presentation will provide an overview of air quality in Nova Scotia, including variations in pollutant concentrations across the province and within Canada, and trends in pollutant levels over the past few years.

How does air pollution travel? What is dispersion?

Nova Scotians may live 'in the tail pipe of North America', but we must remember that our own emissions can give us cause for concern. While dilution may be the solution to pollution, there is always someone downstream. A pollutant released in Boston can reach Nova Scotia twenty-four hours later. This presentation will focus on the forces that cause air pollution to be transported and dispersed to reach our noses, lungs, crops and soils. Current and emerging technologies to follow air pollution will be highlighted.

What affects air quality (local, transboundary sources)?

Smog and other airborne pollutants do not respect international and provincial borders. In recent years, a lot of effort has been placed on studying the impacts of long-range transport on local and regional air quality. This presentation will discuss the long-range transport of emissions from transboundary sources.

In contrast to the contribution from long-range transport, local air quality may be affected by nearby industries, roadways, biomass burning, or natural source emissions. Small-scale meteorology and topography can also exacerbate air pollution. Several examples will be given where local inputs affect air quality on different spatial and temporal scales.

How and why do you model air quality?

Air quality models are useful tools for simulating transport, dispersion and transformation of a contaminants emitted to the air. Models provide a fundamental link between emissions of contaminants from sources such as industries and the quality of the air that we breathe. Typical applications of air quality models will be reviewed. The three major components of air quality modelling (meteorology, emissions, and dispersion) will be discussed relative to the types of impacts mentioned above.

What are the environmental effects of air pollution?

Activities such as fossil fuel combustion, vehicle use, metal smelting, oil refining, biomass burning and agricultural activities all release polluting substances into the atmosphere, which can degrade the air quality on local, regional, and global scales. The effects of air pollution on ecosystem health are far-reaching and of considerable concern. This talk will identify the main pathways by which air pollution affects the quality of the natural environment, and will discuss the effects of air pollution on lake and forest ecosystems.

What is government doing about air quality?

  • Provincial perspective
    The presentation will provide a brief overview of the Department of Environment and Labour's outdoor air quality activities. The department has been involved in monitoring air quality for decades. However, withe the introduction of Industrial Air Emission Fees in 2004, the department has been able to build a more sophisticated program with a dedicated team. The presentation will summarize some of the department's recent activities as well as discuss future directions. Topics will include: the department's air monitoring network; emission caps; education and awareness; Canada Wide Standards, etc.

  • An Overview of Federal Air Quality Management
    This presentation will discuss the major pieces of legislation and initiatives that the federal government uses to manage air quality in Canada, including the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Current and upcoming federal regulations related to emissions reporting, vehicles and consumer products will also be discussed. The presentation will also cover joint federal-provincial processes under the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. Finally, the presentation will touch on international agreements entered into by the Government of Canada that help manage air quality on a North American and global scale.

  • Municipal perspective - example: Halifax Regional Municipality
    Air quality is important to residents of Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) according to responses and feedback to various surveys, both independent and commissioned. HRM has initiated an overall Sustainable Environment Strategy that includes an integrated approach to clean air, land, water and energy options. There are a number of action items, including such things as biofuels, reduced idling programs, district energy plans, community energy planning, energy performance contracts, pesticide use reduction, vehicle and bus emission reduction, etc., all contributing to cleaner air.

How are climate change and air quality linked?

Climate change and air pollution are closely linked. The most important cause of both problems is the burning of fossil fuels. Air pollution is further worsened by climate change in a cascade effect. For example, higher temperatures result in greater air conditioner use, which in turn increases air pollution from electricity generation plants. Changes in wind pattern or intensity can make air pollution events more common downwind of major industrial and traffic centres. Climate change and air pollution problems can have common solutions. Reducing the use of fossil fuels through energy efficiency measures reduces the emissions of both greenhouse gases and air pollutants.

What research is happening in Nova Scotia related to air quality?

  • Lidar Aerosol Measurements at Dalhousie University
    A new lidar (laser radar) system is operating in the Atmospheric-Optics Laboratory at Dalhousie University, and is used to measure vertical profiles of atmospheric aerosols at high spatial and temporal resolution. The concepts behind the instrument will be explained, and measurements from the last two summers will be presented. In particular, examples of aerosol events aloft resulting from Alaskan forest fires and pollution transport up the Eastern Seaboard of North America will be shown. The lidar operations have great potential to contribute to developing collaborations between Dalhousie University, MSC, NSEL, and other partners.

  • Lichens as Indicators of Air Quality in Nova Scotia
    The boreal felt lichen is an endangered species which has seen a 90% decline in population in Nova Scotia in the last two decades. This decline is due, in a large part, to air pollution. The structural characteristics and mode of nutrient and water uptake make lichens more sensitive to airborne pollutants than most other organisms. If we pay attention to lichens, they can become early warning indicators of air pollution impacts to ecosystems and humans. Indeed, lichens have been used as bio-indicators of air quality for decades. This presentation will discuss a lichen mapping project in Nova Scotia.

  • The determination of Canada-Wide Standard achievement for fine particulate matter - model scenarios for Atlantic Canada
    Air pollution from other countries often prevents Canadian jurisdictions from meeting domestic air quality goals such as the Canada-Wide Standards for Fine Particulate Matter and Ozone. Emissions originating from the energy producing and industrial sectors of the US are often seen as major contributors to smog in Canada, particularly during the summer months. In support of provincial jurisdiction implementation plans for achievement of Canada-Wide Standards (CWS) for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone, the contribution of trans-boundary transport to pollutant concentrations in Atlantic Canada was assessed using a model. Results of the study will be presented.