What does air pollution sound like?

Pretty cool, actually, according to an article on the High Country News website.

Seems some researchers at UC Berkeley took data from different air quality tests and through a series of calculations, translated them into sounds. This is a gross oversimplification and the article includes an interview with one of the researchers who lays it all out in total techno-geek detail.

But the idea is to find new ways for people to conceptualize air pollution, apart from abstract numbers or visual haze.

Click here, for example, to hear the sound of air pollution in the Caldecott Tunnel which links Oakland with Contra Costa County. The way the bass drone builds and vibrates, you can practically feel the pollution clogging the air the deeper into the tunnel you go.

A clip from a forest in the Sierras, on the other hand, is all bubbly, tinkly stuff, save when some pollution from Sacramento blows in at the end.

If you like your air quality information color coded, you can go to the AIRNow website, a collaborative effort of federal and state agencies, where you can put in your zip code and get a rundown on key pollutants in your area. As I type, on Sept. 28, air quality in the Coachella Valley is pretty good, save for our ozone, which is in the yellow moderate zone, meaning it could pose some threat to people who are very sensitive to air pollution.

Our PM 2.5 — tiny particles that can cause respiratory disease — is in the green, good zone but only by a hair, with a 49 score. At 51, it goes to yellow.

You can also download AIRNow apps for iPhone and Android.

The valley’s ozone levels have always been a concern — and some recent research by EPA scientists underlines the risk.  In a test in which 23 young adults were exposed to slightly higher levels of ozone while exercising, the scientists found:

“Ozone exposure caused inflammation of the vascular system  and resulted in two risk factors that can lead to a heart attack: a change in  heart rate variability and a reduction in ability to dissolve blood clots.”

In related news, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued its report on California’s agricultural chemical use for fruit crops in 2011.

I can’t do a direct link to the report, but if you click here, you’ll get to a website where you can find a link in the second box on the right-hand side of the page.

Among the interesting factoids — 19 percent of the state’s date crop, which is almost all grown in the Coachella Valley, gets treated with herbicides, but no other chemicals.  Another big valley crop, table grapes, on the other hand, gets a quadruple whammy —  85 percent of all table grapes are treated with fungicides, 67 percent with insecticides, 54 percent with herbicides and 80 percent with other chemicals.

One doesn’t like ending a blog post on a down note, especially on a weekend.

So the good news, coming from the Los Angeles Times, is that California Gov. Jerry Brown this week signed 19 bills into law, all aimed at promoting renewable energy development and energy conservation.

Among the bills was SB 1222, authored by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, that would require cities and counties across the state to limit any perimitting fees for residential rooftop solar to the amount it costs them to provide the permits. Solar installers will be happy, as should consumers, since “soft costs” for permitting and other adminstrative work, have remained high, adding to the expense of solar installations, even as costs for solar panels have plummeted.

More renewables mean less need to burn fossil fuels and less air pollution.

Listen for the bubbly, tinkly clean air sounds — hopefully, more are on the way.