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USU Climate Professor Named to Governor's Clean Air Action Team

Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013

Dr. Robert Gillies

Dr. Robert Gillies joins the governor's Clean Air Action Team as its climate expert.

He is already a professor in the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences, a state climatologist and the director of the Utah Climate Center, and now Robert Gillies will also be a climate expert on Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s Clean Air Action Team.

The team, announced by Herbert Oct. 15, includes 38 experts in diverse areas, including industry, healthcare, government and education, who will meet 10 times over the next year to come up with ways to address Utah’s growing air pollution problem.

With expertise in climatology of the Intermountain West, Gillies is part of the panel’s academic team and will provide recommendations on how to keep the air clean and not impair health, he said.

“The big issue is that this is really affecting the quality of life for many Utahns,” said Gillies.

He said the earth naturally gives off its own gasses but in the winter, those gasses get trapped because of valley-shaped locations and very little mixing in the atmosphere.

“So if the valley had no human being in it, you’d still get inversions,” he said.

However, people emit other gasses by driving their cars or heating their houses, for example, and worsen the problem. The gasses can also get trapped and create tiny particles of pollution known as Particulate Matter 2.5 that remain in the air. These particles can get into the body’s bloodstream and potentially take five years off of one’s life, Gillies said.

As a first step toward resolution, CAAT will bring different facets together and educate each as to what they can do. Perhaps businesses and industry will come forward with a commitment to cut their emissions by a certain amount, Gillies said. Maybe then people will follow in doing their part and cut their own emissions by carpooling, riding bikes and turning off idling cars, he added.

“My hope is, and the success of the board will be, that under persistent inversion events, we do indeed keep the values of PM 2.5 from becoming unhealthy,” Gillies said. “That would define success, true success.”

Gillies noted that he is excited to be working with the team.

“It’s nice to be asked and recognized for your expertise,” he said. “It’s nice to be recognized that you have a role to play.”

In addition to his participation on the CAAT, Gillies was also recently asked to be on another governor’s board for water conservation. However, the details of that panel are still being developed.

Related links:

Utah Climate Center

USU College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences

Contact: Robert Gillies, 435-797-3376,

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