Dr. Helmig has worked in the field of atmospheric research for some 30 years, with over 25 years’ experience in the remote monitoring of trace gases in the atmosphere. He is the founder of Boulder Atmosphere Innovation Research (Boulder AIR), which provides atmospheric analysis and research support in areas such as configuration and implementation of atmospheric monitoring programs, atmospheric analyses of trace gases and pollutants (including ozone, methane, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, particulates), automated, continuous monitoring of atmospheric trace gases at remote sites, and development of ultra-sensitive atmospheric measurement techniques.
Dr. Helmig is Associate Research Professor of Institute of Alpine and Arctic Research (INSTAAR) and Editor-in-Chief of Elementa – Science of the Anthropocene. He has previously held the positions of Research Scientist III with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), University of Colorado, Boulder, 1997-2001; Research scientist with the Atmospheric Chemistry Division (ACD) at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder/Colorado in the Trace Gas Biogeochemistry group, 1992-1996; Postdoctoral scientist at the “Statewide Air Pollution Research Center” at the University of California/Riverside, 1989-92; and Research chemist at the “Fraunhofer-Institute for Environmental Chemistry and Ecotoxicology” in Schmallenberg-Grafschaft/Germany, 1987-89.
Engaging the public and agencies in air quality observations through real-time monitoring and public data posting
The Northern Colorado Front Range has been suffering from air pollution for some twenty years. The region has received an ‘F’ rating from the American Lung Association reflecting its poor air quality. The for influx of oil and natural gas development into urban areas has further raised citizen’s concerns about air quality and health impacts resulting from emissions of oil and gas operations. This has prompted regional governments to seek help in monitoring oil and gas pollutants for assessing citizen’s exposures and associated health risks. Sponsored by local communities, i.e. Boulder County Public Health, The City of Longmont, and the City and County of Broomfield, a regional monitoring network has been implemented in the Northern Colorado Front Range. Atmospheric observations target primary oil and gas emissions, as well as greenhouse gases. Current monitoring includes methane, carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds, hydrogen sulfide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter at a total of five stations. Results and interpretations of the measurements are provided to the public in real time through web portals.
The wide interest in these real-time observations is evidenced by well in excess of 30,000 visits to the public websites during the first years of operation. Results have been instrumental in raising awareness and educating the public about local air quality and contributing emission sources. These monitoring data have also become a viable resource for citizen groups, agencies, the media, and policy makers, and been instrumental in directing the implementation of new air quality regulations in Colorado.