In 2013, the international Commission on Atmospheric Chemistry and Global Pollution (iCACGP) and the International Global Atmospheric Chemistry (IGAC) Project Americas Working Group (iCACGP/IGAC AWG) was formed to build a cohesive network and foster the next generation of atmospheric scientists with the goal of contributing to a scientific community focused on building a collective knowledge for the Americas. The Latin America-Caribbean (LAC) region shares a common history, culture, and socioeconomic issues but, at the same time, it is highly diverse in its physical and human geography. The LAC region is unique because approximately 80% of its population lives in urban areas, resulting in high-density hotspots of urbanization and vast unpopulated rural areas. In recent years, most countries of the region have experienced rapid growth in population and industrialization as their economies emerge. The rapid urbanization, the associated increases in mobile and industrial sources, and the growth of the agricultural activities related to biomass burning have degraded air quality in certain areas of the LAC region. Air pollution has negative implications on human health, ecosystems, and climate. In addition, air pollution and the warming caused by greenhouse gases could impact the melting of Andean glaciers, an important source of freshwater. To better understand the links between air pollution and climate, it is necessary to increase the number of atmospheric scientists and improve our observational, analytical, and modeling capacities. This requires sustained, prioritized, oriented funding as well as stronger collaboration within the LAC region.
A more cohesive and sustained community of atmospheric scientists is needed in the Latin America-Caribbean region to address the pressing issues of air quality and climate change.
The Latin America-Caribbean (LAC) region is defined as the countries south of the Rio Grande along the U.S.-Mexico border and includes Mexico, Central America, the islands of the Caribbean, and South America. Oftentimes, the LAC region is referred to as a homogeneous entity because of a common history, culture, and socioeconomic issues. However, to understand atmospheric chemistry in the region and its impacts on human health, ecosystems, and climate, it is of the utmost importance to address the heterogeneity of the LAC region's physical and human geography (Fig. 1, left). For example, the climate of northern Mexico is hot and dry, while the climates of many Central America and Caribbean countries consist of a prolonged wet summer season that includes many tropical storms and hurricanes. Within South America the topography and climate vary greatly from the Andean regions to Amazonia and from Atlantic forests to Patagonia.
The LAC region is also unique in the fact that -80% of the population lives in urban areas, resulting in high-density hot spots of urbanization and vast rural, sparsely populated areas (Heilig 2012; United Nations 2012) (Fig. 1, right). As a result of the high percentage of people living in urban areas and the coinciding emissions resulting from rapid development, urban air pollution has become a ubiquitous problem throughout the LAC region. Socioeconomic gradients among countries and inequities within them act as amplifiers of environmental...