Monument now collection point for weather, dust pollution data
By LE ROY STANDISH
Air quality and science are flying high on Colorado National Monument.
The Mesa County Health Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are starting new experimental weather stations on the monument. The county is monitoring dust, trying to determine points of origin. The federal government weather station is one of 1,000 across the country monitoring global climate change, according to Michelle Wheatley, chief of interpretation and education for Colorado National Monument.
“There is $75,000 worth of equipment out there,” Wheatley said.
The NOAA station is solar powered. It was installed in June and is permitted to remain for at least the next 40 years. The site has several instruments that will monitor weather and send real-time information every hour to NOAA, she said.
The monument makes an ideal location for the monitoring station because it is in a relatively undisturbed area within a federally protected area.
“It is a site that will remain relatively unaltered in the future,” Wheatley said.
She said information will be combined with that gathered from 1,000 similar stations across the
country to “support near- and long-term climate policy decisions.”
The county installed a dust monitoring station in a different area of the monument on Thursday, said Michael Brygger, air quality specialist for the county.
“The instrument is a regional dust monitor. It is a continuous PM 10 monitor that samples the air and provides information on an hourly basis,” Brygger said.
He said the intention of placing the monitor is to determine how much dust is produced locally, here in the Grand Valley, and how much is coming from other sources such as Utah and Arizona.
“It is a good idea to understand your source so you can help rectify the problem,” Brygger said.
The Mesa County Health Department is working with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to identify the sources of dust pollution. Local sources such as dirt roads, areas of open land disturbed by industry and dirt parking lots may then be targeted and held accountable for the dust they create, he said.
“With enhanced management we can reduce some of our local sources,” he said.
The dust monitor installed by the county was leftover equipment donated to the county from Mesa State College, he said.