Home News NASA paves way for space-based air pollution sensors

NASA paves way for space-based air pollution sensors

US: NASA started a campaign called DISCOVER-AQ, which stands for Deriving Information on Surface conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality. It is one of the five Earth Venture classes of investigations selected last year as part of NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder programme. 
As part of this campaign, two NASA research airplanes will fly over the Baltimore-Washington region and northeast Maryland this summer as part of a mission to enhance the capability of satellites to measure ground-level air quality from space. A fundamental challenge for spaceborne instruments/sensors monitoring air quality is to distinguish between pollution high in the atmosphere and pollution near the surface, where people live. The new NASA field campaign will make measurements from aircraft in combination with ground-based observation sites to help scientists better understand how to observe ground-level pollution from space in the future. A fundamental challenge for spaceborne instruments monitoring air quality is to distinguish between pollution high in the atmosphere and pollution near the surface where people live. The new NASA field campaign will make measurements from aircraft in combination with ground-based observation sites to help scientists better understand how to observe ground-level pollution from space in the future. 
Since many countries, including the US, have large gaps in ground-based networks of air pollution monitors, experts look to satellites to provide a more complete geographic perspective on the distribution of pollutants. 
A fleet of Earth-observing satellites, called the Afternoon Constellation or “A-train” will pass over the DISCOVER-AQ study area each day in the early afternoon. The satellites’ data, especially from the Aqua and Aura spacecraft, will give scientists the opportunity to compare the view from space with that from the ground and aircraft. 
“The A-Train satellites have been useful in giving us a broader view of air pollution than has ever been seen,” said Kenneth Pickering, DISCOVER-AQ’s project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “DISCOVER-AQ will help interpret that data to improve air-quality analysis and regional air-quality models.” 
NASA investigators will be joined in the air by colleagues from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Innsbruck in Austria. The 117-foot P-3B will fly low-altitude spiral profiles over the ground stations. These profiles will extend from 15,000 feet to as low as 1,000 feet from the ground. The flights will sample air along traffic corridors at low altitude between ground stations. 
The smaller King Air UC-12 will collect data from as high as 26,000 feet. The plane’s instruments will look down at the surface, much like a satellite instrument, and measure particulate and gaseous pollution. 
The DISCOVER-AQ flights are the beginning of a four-year campaign that will bring NASA aircraft to Houston and other urban regions. NASA’s Langley center manages the Earth System Science Pathfinder program for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. 
Source: NASA