Washington State Magazine

Spring 2004

Spring 2004

In This Issue...


Mount St. Helens: The perfect laboratory :: It is impossible to accept the immensity of Mount St. Helens and the effect of its catastrophic 1980 eruption unless you are able to stand beneath the enormous crater on the pumice plain and listen to John Bishop talk about lupines.

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Gallery: Mount St. Helens :: Photographs of John Bishop's research and the volcano. By Robert Hubner}

Lonely, Beautiful, and Threatened—Willapa Bay :: Willapa Bay is the largest estuary between San Francisco and Puget Sound. It boasts one of the least-spoiled environments and the healthiest salmon runs south of Canada. It produces one in every four oysters farmed in the United States and is a favorite stop for tens of thousands of migratory birds. And it's in trouble.

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Gallery: Willapa Bay :: Photographs by Bill Wagner}

Extreme Diversity—in Soap Lake :: Soap Lake is surrounded by dark shores, sheer rock walls, a primeval landscape. Its waters have long been thought by some to cure certain maladies. It is also home to strange, hardy organisms that live nowhere else.

Keith Lincoln, Barn Builder :: Over 25 years at Washington State University, alumni director Keith Lincoln built many things, including friendships and a place where alums can go to sit in the shade.



:: SEASONS/SPORTS: Golfer Kim Welch

:: SEASONS/SPORTS: Basketball's Marcus Moore


Cover: Ecologist John Bishop has followed the reestablishment of life on Mount St. Helens's pumice plain. Read the story here. Photograph by Robert Hubner.

Mexico City.


Mexico City. Guido Alberto Rossi / The Image Bank / Getty Images

Tackling megacity crud

by | © Washington State University

Although Mexico City has the dubious distinction of having the worst air quality in the world, its problems with pollution are not unique. Researchers at Washington State University's Laboratory of Atmospheric Research are working with a group of more than 20 universities and government agencies who are using Mexico City as a case study in how to tackle the huge problem of air quality in megacities.

Led by Mario Molina of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the researchers hope to gather information from a large number of groups and eventually help to devise better emissions-control strategies for the region. Using a variety of technologies and a number of agencies to gather information assures better confidence in the results, says Brian Lamb, professor in civil engineering who led the WSU group. The information could also be used to better understand and improve air pollution problems in other major urban areas.

Lamb's group studied the emissions of organic hydrocarbons from the urban landscape. Hydrocarbons are released into the atmosphere from incomplete combustion of gasoline and other fuels and from other sources such as dry cleaners, paint shops, and solvent use. In the atmosphere, hydrocarbons react with sunlight and nitrogen oxides to produce ozone and smog. In Mexico City the standard for ozone is exceeded 300 days per year.

While Lamb's group found that cars are a big source of hydrocarbon emissions, they also found that the many small cottage industries, ranging from repair shops to a factory that cleans eggs, are also significant contributors to pollution. Even painting sidewalk curbs produced significant organic molecules.

"With a population of 20 million people and horrendous traffic, they have a long way to go,'' says Lamb.

Categories: Engineering, Environmental studies | Tags: Civil engineering, Pollution, Transportation

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