Contribution of low-cost sensor measurements to the prediction of PM2.5 levels: A case study in Imperial County, California, USA

Publication Date


Document Type


Publication Title

Environmental Research






Regulatory monitoring networks are often too sparse to support community-scale PM2.5 exposure assessment while emerging low-cost sensors have the potential to fill in the gaps. To date, limited studies, if any, have been conducted to utilize low-cost sensor measurements to improve PM2.5 prediction with high spatiotemporal resolutions based on statistical models. Imperial County in California is an exemplary region with sparse Air Quality System (AQS) monitors and a community-operated low-cost network entitled Identifying Violations Affecting Neighborhoods (IVAN). This study aims to evaluate the contribution of IVAN measurements to the quality of PM2.5 prediction. We adopted the Random Forest algorithm to estimate daily PM2.5 concentrations at a 1-km spatial resolution using three different PM2.5 datasets (AQS-only, IVAN-only, and AQS/IVAN combined). The results show that the integration of low-cost sensor measurements is an effective way to significantly improve the quality of PM2.5 prediction with an increase of cross-validation (CV) R2 by ~0.2. The IVAN measurements also contributed to the increased importance of emission source-related covariates and more reasonable spatial patterns of PM2.5. The remaining uncertainty in the calibrated IVAN measurements could still cause apparent outliers in the prediction model, highlighting the need for more effective calibration or integration methods to relieve its negative impact.

Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

National Institutes of Health


Low-cost sensor, Measurement uncertainty, Random forest, Satellite AOD


Meteorology and Climate Science