Air Pollution in the Los Angeles Basin

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Air Pollution in the Los Angeles Basin
Budget Travel Magazine recently conducted a survey to identify the top ten most popular travel destinations in the world. Amongst cities including Paris, Rome, and Tokyo stands Los Angeles at number six. Surprising? To locals maybe, but a majority of the world views Los Angeles as a glamorous city; home to Hollywood, celebrities, and, of course, Disneyland. Travelers are taken aback when they become aware of the severe levels of air pollution in the atmosphere of the Los Angeles Basin. Throughout the twentieth century and into present day, the Los Angeles Basin, the area containing the city of Los Angeles as well as its neighboring suburbs, has developed one of the worst cases of air pollution in the world. Society has developed an intense reliance on the burning of fossil fuels, resulting in a thick accumulation of chemicals from greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In order to reduce pollutant build up and restore the atmosphere, the population of Los Angeles must decrease its need for and use of fossil fuels by converting to renewable energy sources, following strict legislation regarding emission control, and altering personal habits to lead a “greener” lifestyle. Before Los Angeles (LA) was an American city, the area was under Spanish and Mexican rule for a long period of time. Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese-born explorer, claimed the area of southern California for the Spanish Empire in 1542. The Mexican people achieved independence from the Spanish Empire in 1821. However, Mexican rule quickly ended due to the Mexican–American War in 1846 (“The Early Settlement of Los Angeles,” n.d.). Once apart of the United States, LA began to transform into what it is today. The construction of railroads across the country made LA more accessible and started an increase in population. The discovery of oil also prompted a growth in population. By the early 20th century, LA became a center of oil production. This served as a catalyst to the start of urbanization and industrialization of the west coast. Today, the city of LA is home to almost four million people (“State and County Quickfacts,” 2011), making LA the second largest population center in the United States. The entire LA basin, however, is about 17,500 km2 with a total population of 16 million (Chow, 2004). LA’s large population size is an important component regarding the area’s heavy air pollution. There are many reasons why LA has such a high population. LA County is a central location for many big businesses and corporations. Resulting in a large need for businessmen and businesswomen. Hollywood, beaches, museums, amusement parks, and other attractions make for one of the biggest tourist industries in the country. The tourism industry supplies an abundance of jobs, and is therefore a reason people live in the area. Not to mention the enjoyable Mediterranean climate and prime location are major incentives for people to live in the LA area. On the other hand, the geography and climate of LA are also a contributing factors as to why LA’s air is so polluted. According to the article “Los Angeles; Traffic and Smog”, the surrounding mountains, subsidence inversions, and high solar intensity produce ideal conditions for the atmospheric stagnation conductive to pollutant reaction and buildup in LA. Also, “the air circulation pattern allows air pollutants to build up in the air shed until the passage of a new weather front” (Chow, 1996), allowing pollutants to linger above the basin for long periods of time. In order to address the problem of pollutant buildup, one must know where the pollutants are coming from. There are a number of sources, both point and non-point, of pollutants in LA. Coal-fired power plants and motor vehicles spew out most of the nation’s nitrogen oxide (Bęś, Rogalski, & Warmiński, 2008). In LA, cars and other motor vehicles are the primary source of the city's infamous...
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