Weather and the City: Machine Learning for Predicting and Attributing Fine Scale Air Quality to Meteorological and Urban Determinants

Firas Gerges, Maider Llaguno-Munitxa, Mark A. Zondlo, Michel C. Boufadel, Elie Bou-Zeid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Urban air quality persists as a global concern, with critical health implications. This study employs a combination of machine learning (gradient boosting regression, GBR) and spatial analysis to better understand the key drivers behind air pollution and its prediction and mitigation strategies. Focusing on New York City as a representative urban area, we investigate the interplay between urban characteristics and weather factors, showing that urban features, including traffic-related parameters and urban morphology, emerge as crucial predictors for pollutants closely associated with vehicular emissions, such as elemental carbon (EC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Conversely, pollutants with secondary formation pathways (e.g., PM2.5) or stemming from nontraffic sources (e.g., sulfur dioxide, SO2) are predominantly influenced by meteorological conditions, particularly wind speed and maximum daily temperature. Urban characteristics are shown to act over spatial scales of 500 × 500 m2, which is thus the footprint needed to effectively capture the impact of urban form, fabric, and function. Our spatial predictive model, needing only meteorological and urban inputs, achieves promising results with mean absolute errors ranging from 8 to 32% when using full-year data. Our approach also yields good performance when applied to the temporal mapping of spatial pollutant variability. Our findings highlight the interacting roles of urban characteristics and weather conditions and can inform urban planning, design, and policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6313-6325
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Volume58
Issue number14
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 9 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry

Keywords

  • air quality
  • machine learning
  • pollution modeling
  • spatial analysis
  • urban environment

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