NASA to Perform Air Quality Research Study

By Woodrow Bellamy III  | July 8, 2014
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[Avionics Today July 8, 2014] The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is launching the latest study in a project spanning four North American cities analyzing factors that lead to unhealthy air quality conditions. 

NASA’s latest study will bring a King Air research aircraft and a P-3B to Boulder, Co., to examine what factors lead to ozone levels in summer that exceed national health standards. Colorado is the last stop for NASA’s research lead by the agency’s Deriving Information on Surface Conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality (DISCOVER-AQ) team. 
The overall goal of the study is to improve the capability of satellites to monitor air quality worldwide, the agency said. 
"Satellites looking down through the atmosphere have a difficult time distinguishing between pollution at the surface and aloft," said DISCOVER-AQ Principal Investigator Jim Crawford "The ‘vertically resolved’ observations gathered by the two NASA planes flying one above the other and above the ground sites offer the details needed to better understand how to connect these two views."
Previous studies included a 2011 project in the Baltimore-Washington D.C. area, California’s San Joaquin Valley in 2013 and Houston as well. According to NASA, the King Air will fly at 27,000 feet looking downward with remote sensors to measure the amount of gas and pollution below the aircraft. Simultaneously the P-3B will sample the vertical distribution of gas and pollution by "profiling from 1,000 and 15,000 feet above the surface," NASA said. 
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will also receive air monitoring instruments from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to measure nitrogen dioxide during the month-long air pollution study. 
Data gathered from the study will be used to improve air quality models and the design of planned satellite observations of air quality over North America. 

"What we learn from these flights will help us to better interpret satellite remote sensing of air quality from geostationary orbit in the future," said Crawford. "It also will  help us to define the best combination of instruments on the ground to connect air quality monitoring networks with satellite information." 

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