For example, a recent study conducted by researchers from NASAs Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., and Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., used satellite instruments to look at air quality in Houston, Texas, a city with major air quality problems. Using data from two instruments on NASA's Aura satellite, researchers found that not all of Houston's pollution was locally caused and there was significant long-range transport from the Midwest and Ohio Valley. "Although the finding was made possible by a computer model, it was greatly aided by the Aura satellite data," Pickering says.
Researchers at centers including NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., are also experimenting with blending satellite ozone data with the output from computer models to continuously improve a forecast's accuracy.
NASA satellites are helping researchers evaluate the Clean Air Interstate Rule instituted in 2005 by the EPA. The rule calls for eastern U.S. power plants to cut sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions by 73 and 60 percent, respectively, by 2018. Coal burning plants emit plumes containing sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere, where they undergo chemical reactions and form aerosol particles that lead to adverse health impacts, degrade visibility and can influence Earth's climate. These aerosols are usually transported by wind away from their source to distant regions. Satellite instruments, as well as models and other information sources, allow researchers to create a history describing how much aerosol is transported and where, helping them to evaluate the rule.
"Satellites add considerable vertical and horizontal spatial detail, enabling a more scientifically sound way of understanding whether or not programs are making progress in reducing air pollution in the long term," says Rich Scheffe of the EPA in Research Triangle Park, N.C.
|Contact: Lynn Chandler|
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center