High-Resolution Air Pollution Mapping with Google Street View Cars: Exploiting Big Data

Joshua S. Apte, Kyle P. Messier, Shahzad Gani, Michael Brauer, Thomas W. Kirchstetter, Melissa M. Lunden, Julian D. Marshall, Christopher J. Portier, Roel C.H. Vermeulen, Steven P. Hamburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

162 Scopus citations


Air pollution affects billions of people worldwide, yet ambient pollution measurements are limited for much of the world. Urban air pollution concentrations vary sharply over short distances (≪1 km) owing to unevenly distributed emission sources, dilution, and physicochemical transformations. Accordingly, even where present, conventional fixed-site pollution monitoring methods lack the spatial resolution needed to characterize heterogeneous human exposures and localized pollution hotspots. Here, we demonstrate a measurement approach to reveal urban air pollution patterns at 4-5 orders of magnitude greater spatial precision than possible with current central-site ambient monitoring. We equipped Google Street View vehicles with a fast-response pollution measurement platform and repeatedly sampled every street in a 30-km2 area of Oakland, CA, developing the largest urban air quality data set of its type. Resulting maps of annual daytime NO, NO2, and black carbon at 30 m-scale reveal stable, persistent pollution patterns with surprisingly sharp small-scale variability attributable to local sources, up to 5-8× within individual city blocks. Since local variation in air quality profoundly impacts public health and environmental equity, our results have important implications for how air pollution is measured and managed. If validated elsewhere, this readily scalable measurement approach could address major air quality data gaps worldwide. (Figure Presented).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6999-7008
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 20 2017

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Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Chemical Society.

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