The composition of the atmosphere is a consequence of the emissions of gases and particulate matter, which may be generated by natural sources or by human activity. Emissions may alter the climate, the Earth’s energy balance, the processes of the water cycle and health.
Air quality is routinely studied in urban and industrial areas. However, it is also important to learn more about the variability and dynamics of aerosols in places that are far away from pollution hotspots of anthropogenic origin. Mountain areas are formed by fragile ecosystems whose balance may be altered by pollutants, such as those that are generated when the increase in tourism causes an overuse of rural zones. Besides, green spaces emit remarkable amounts of certain types of very reactive organic compounds (VOCs). These do not only have a direct impact on the composition of the atmosphere, but also are highly reactive and the precursors of other, more complex secondary compounds that are harmful to the health of people and ecosystems.
In our project, we study the composition of the atmosphere in Sierra Nevada. To this end, we built a network of stations that cover a wide range of locations, from towns with different anthropogenic impacts to faraway places in the Sierra Nevada area. With these stations, we can measure several atmospheric compounds and issue a warning when they reach concentrations that are harmful to the environment.