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UI researchers develop technique to help pollution forecasters see past clouds
Date:7/10/2012

Until now, scientists who study air pollution using satellite imagery have been limited by weather. Clouds, in particular, provide much less information than a sunny day.

However, University of Iowa scientists have created a technique to help satellites "see" through the clouds and better estimate the concentration of pollutants, such as soot. The finding is important, because, like GPS systems, clouds block remote-sensing satellites' ability to detect, and thus calculate, the concentration of pollution nearer to the ground. This includes particles (commonly known as soot) that reduce air quality and affect weather and climate.

The results of the study are published July 9 in the online early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"Particles in the atmosphere (aerosols) interact with clouds changing their properties. With this technique, we can use remote sensing observations from satellites to estimate these cloud properties in order to correct predictions of particle concentrations. This is possible due to a numerical model that describes these aerosol-clouds interactions," says Pablo Saide, environmental engineering doctoral student and researcher at the UI Center for Global and Regional Research (CGRER).

Scott Spak, co-author and assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering in the UI College of Engineering, adds that the new technique is expected to find immediate application across a wide range of activities. Examples include air quality forecasting, numerical weather prediction, climate projections, oceanic and anthropogenic emissions estimation, and health effects studies.

But the ability to see pollution "through the clouds" is also expected to have "on the ground" health results.

"Unlike previous methods, this technique can directly improve predictions of near-surface, fine-mode aerosolssuch as coal-fired electric generating plants and woo
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Contact: Gary Galluzzo
gary-galluzzo@uiowa.edu
319-384-0009
University of Iowa
Source:Eurekalert

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