milagrotrailer About half of the world’s population now lives in urban area; many of these urban centers are expanding rapidly, leading to the growth of cities and megacities, defined as areas with more than 10 million residents.  In recent decades, air pollution has become one of the most important problems of megacities and has serious impacts on public health, causes urban and regional haze, and has the potential to contribute significantly to climate change.

MILAGRO (Megacity Initiative: Local Global and Research Observations) is the first international effort to study the impact of a megacity on air quality and climate, using Mexico City Metropolitan Area (MCMA) as the case study.  More than 150 institutions from Mexico, United States and Europe participated, and over450 investigators and technicians from 30 different nationalities participated in the campaign, organized under four components:

  1. MCMA-2006 (Mexico City Metropolitan Area - 2006) led by the Molina Center on Energy and the Environment (MCE2) with funding from NSF, DOE, and several Mexican research agencies, including CAM, INE, CONACyT and PEMEX, to examine emissions and boundary layer concentrations within the Mexico City Basin, their dispersal, transport and transformation in the atmosphere, the exposure patterns and effects on human health.
  2. MAX-Mex (Megacity Aerosol Experiment in Mexico City) led by Department of Energy (DOE) Atmospheric Science Program (ASP) with funding from DOE, to examine the evolution of aerosols and gas-aerosols interactions in the immediate urban outflow.
  3. MIRAGE-Mex (Megacity Impacts on Regional and Global Environments) led by National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) with funding by NSF to examine the evolution of the Mexico City plume on larger regional scales.
  4. INTEX-B (Intercontinental Chemical Transport Experiment – Phase B), led by NASA to study the evolution and transport of pollution on global scales.

The initial phase of the campaign was to conduct measurement of pollutants, which took place during March of 2006, and included six aircraft based in Veracruz and Houston, three major supersites and mobile units around the MCMA, mobile laboratories and satellite observations, as well as a number of educational activities.  The results will help to provide the basis for the formulation of effective public policies related to issues such as transportation, energy, and public health.

©  MCE2 and UNAM / TV UNAM