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Special Collection

Forum: Oil and Natural Gas Development: Air Quality, Climate Science, and Policy

Collection launched: 27 Mar 2015

Guest Editors

Brian Lamb, Environmental Engineering Laboratory for Atmospheric Research, Washington State University
Stefan Schwietzke, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and University of Colorado

Recent advances in fossil fuel extraction technologies, such as hydraulic fracturing in tight formations and tar sand mining, have led to a surge in oil and natural gas exploration and production, and the expansion of the supporting infrastructure. While the transition from coal or oil to natural gas use in electricity generation results in a desirable reduction of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of electricity produced, emissions from oil and natural gas activities are multi-faceted and have potential to contribute to local, regional, and global air pollution, and climate warming.

Atmospheric impacts can affect oil and gas workers, residents near oil and gas operations, and the regional and the global communities. There are a myriad of potential emissions that have been identified with those of methane, hydrogen sulfide, fracking fluid and additives components, volatile and polycyclic aromatic organic compounds, and aerosols previously having received most attention. Methane, the main constituent of natural gas is a potent greenhouse gas, and leakage from oil and gas operations can offset the climate benefits from the reduction of coal usage. Additional effects arise from production of secondary pollutants, such as surface ozone and aerosols, which can impact regional air quality and further add to the radiative climate forcing.

This forum is presenting research investigating emissions from oil and gas operations and their atmospheric, air quality, and climate impacts. Invited are studies on occupational, local, regional, and global scales, as well as interdisciplinary contributions that overlap with other Elementa publication Domains. The public and policy makers have a demonstrated interest in scientific observations and assessments to facilitate educated decisions for the direction of oil and natural gas development. Therefore, we also encourage article submissions that address bridging science and policy in terms of existing and future energy systems assessments.

Submission inquiries can be directed to the listed guest editor Gabrielle Petron ( as well as to Elementa Atmospheric Science Domain Editor in Chief Detlev Helmig (

Currently accepting submissions