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UNC hosts ITM, a prominent international air quality modeling forum to advance global air quality

August 18, 2023 ITM scientists at the Friday Conference Center

The 39th annual International Technical Meeting on Air Pollution Modelling and its Applications (ITM) hosted by the UNC Institute for the Environment (IE) brought more than 100 scientists and stakeholders from across the world to the Friday Conference Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, from May 22 through May 26.

“The ITM brings scientists from Europe and North America together to discuss the latest advances in air quality modeling techniques and applications,” said Sarav Arunachalam, director of the Center for Environmental Modeling for Policy Development and deputy director of IE. “It was nice to see nearly half of the attendees at this year’s ITM from Europe and Canada get together with U.S. scientists at this highly scientific forum and exchange latest knowledge and findings. Given the global and urgent nature of air pollution issues, such collaboration across the Atlantic is key to make progress in cleaning the air.”

ITM, a prominent international forum for discussing developments in air pollution modeling, began in 1969 under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Committee on Challenges of Modern Society and became independent of NATO in 2013. The 39th annual conference was the first ITM conference held in Chapel Hill.

“UNC shares ITM’s commitment to international collaboration and excellent science, and we are extremely excited to have you with us this week,” Mike Piehler, director of the UNC Institute for the Environment, Carolina’s chief sustainability officer and professor, shared in his opening remarks at the conference.

As a global research university, UNC strives to cultivate and strengthen global partnerships, provide a global education for all students, and support UNC’s international research mission, according to Piehler.

The conference explored eight key topics in air pollution modeling: regional and intercontinental modeling, local and urban scale modeling, emission modeling and processing, data assimilation and air quality forecasting, model assessment and verification, aerosols in the atmosphere, modeling air pollution in a changing climate and air quality effects on human health and ecology.

In addition to oral and poster presentations, ITM hosted three keynote speakers:

  • Jason West, professor and director of graduate studies in the department of environmental sciences and engineering in the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC. West’s keynote focused on air quality and climate change.
  • Olivia Clifton, atmospheric scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Clifton provided an approach for evaluating dry deposition process across multiple models, under the auspices of the Air Quality Model Evaluation International Initiative (AQMEII4)
  • Sherri W. Hunt, principal associate national program director for air and energy (ACE) in the Office of Research and Development at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Hunt discussed air quality effects on human health and ecology, with a focus on addressing environmental justice issues.

“The conference supports UNC’s strategic initiatives to discover, globalize, and promote democracy, which underpin our focus on applying our expertise to solve the world’s grand challenges, strengthening our connection to the world beyond, and working to ensure diverse ideas are exchanged through civil discourse,” Piehler said.

The discussions and scientific findings of the conference are invaluable to the air pollution modeling community and will be published by Springer in “Air Pollution Modeling and its Application volume XXIX.”

“It was a great pleasure for me to organize this conference together with colleagues from UNC and EPA, and the many scientific contributions from the U.S. and Europe confirmed that ITM is an international meeting of the highest scientific stature,” shared Clemens Mensink, chair of the ITM steering committee.

As an independent conference, ITM is hosted in various locations in Europe and North America every 18 months. UNC’s strategic location in the Research Triangle Park area, which includes the cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, provided conference attendees access to one of the most prominent high-tech research and development parks in the world.

Recent ITMs during the past two decades have been hosted in Spain, Germany, Canada, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, Netherlands and France. This year marks the third time the conference has been hosted in the United States. Miami, Florida and San Francisco, California, hosted ITM in 2013 and 2009, respectively.

Story by Natalie Peoples
Natalie Peoples is a student at UNC-Chapel Hill. Natalie is a rising junior from Kensington, Maryland, pursuing a double major in journalism and environmental science. In addition to her work as a communications intern for the Institute for the Environment, she has experience in photojournalism and environmental research. Natalie plans to pursue a career in environmental journalism with a special interest in marine science.