NASA Ames/ Bay Area Air District to Study Local Air Pollution

Press Release From: Ames Research Center
Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bay Area residents may notice some unusual air traffic taking place this Thursday and Friday, Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, 2013, over Interstate-680 and other parts of the region. NASA will fly several specially equipped aircraft and one will fly as low as 1,000 feet to collect air quality data as part of a central California study to better understand air pollution.

"Surprisingly, few studies have explored the vertical distribution of pollution in the Bay Area, particularly in wintertime," said Laura Iraci, an atmospheric research scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. "The Alpha Jet stationed at Ames will measure atmospheric gases off the Pacific coast to understand how cleaner air moves into northern California."

The science flight over the Bay Area will be one of several making similar flights in central California as part of the Discover-AQ campaign, led by NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va. Each aircraft is specially outfitted with an array of high-tech air quality measuring instruments. The data gathered will be used in concert with ground-level air monitoring networks that will shed light on how satellites could be used to make refined measurements through a column of air.

Air quality scientists currently do not know the magnitude of particulates and other air pollutants above the surface layer of the atmosphere. Satellites have so far been unable to distinguish between air pollution high in the atmosphere and near the surface where people live and breathe. This project will help determine where pollution is coming from and how emissions move on a broad-scale level.

Between 2017-2019, NASA and international partners in Europe and Asia will be launching geostationary satellites specifically designed to address air quality.

The current project is a partnership with NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the California Air Resources Board, multiple universities in California and across the nation, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

"This effort will greatly improve what we know about how air pollution forms and moves in northern California and our region," said Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the Air District. "The data collected through this study will refine the tools currently available to Air District planners and meteorologists who forecast and simulate air pollution in the Bay Area."

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