- Press Release
- Sep 29, 2022
NASA helps track global air quality
NASA and other agencies will measure the movements of
pollution around the globe this summer. NASA is participating
with U.S. and international agencies as part of a combined
air quality and climate study.
The first phase of the two-part experiment kicks off today
through August 19. NASA and the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are leading a team of
scientists. Researchers will conduct observations, as part of
the New England Air Quality Study, to track the path of
polluting gases and aerosols traveling from North America to
Europe. The University of New Hampshire, Durham, is a partner
on a broader experiment, called the Intercontinental Chemical
Transport Experiment-North America (INTEX-NA).
INTEX-NA objectives include identifying the quantity of gas
and aerosols that flow from North America to the Atlantic
Ocean, understanding the transport and chemical changes of
the gases over the ocean, and assessing the global impact of
this flow on air quality and climate. The detailed
observations made possible by INTEX-NA will support the
enhanced validation of data from NASA’s Terra and Aqua and
the European Space Agency’s Envisat satellites.
The experiment will quantify the North American import and
export of ozone and associated pollutant gases, aerosols and
long-lived greenhouse gases. Scientists will make sensitive
measurements from airplanes, satellites, balloons, and
ground-based networks. Researchers will use sophisticated
models to analyze data to propose a big picture view of
pollutant transport, transformation, and impact on air
quality and climate.
“This effort is important, because it is the first time a
coordinated worldwide campaign has been launched to establish
a benchmark reading from which global atmospheric policies
can be developed,” said lead scientist Dr. Hanwant Singh of
NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
The NASA DC-8 long-range aircraft is equipped as a flying
laboratory carrying a suite of highly sensitive instruments.
Other agencies’ aircraft will fly over North America and the
Atlantic to gather data. NASA’s satellites will provide
large-scale context for the airborne observations.
Observations of carbon monoxide made from the Measurement of
Pollution in the Troposphere (MOPITT) instrument aboard
NASA’s Terra spacecraft and the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder
(AIRS) onboard the Aqua spacecraft, will show the locations
of polluted air from fossil fuel combustion and biomass
Observations of aerosols from the Moderate Resolution Imaging
Spectoradiometer (MODIS) and Multi-Angle Imaging
Spectroradiometer (MISR) will allow scientists to observe the
distribution and transport of particulate matter over the
“Understanding the transport and transformation of gases and
aerosols on transcontinental and intercontinental scales is
essential for the scientific understanding of air quality and
its relationship to climate change,” said Dr. Jim Gleason,
INTEX-NA program manager.
Scientists will conduct a second field experiment in spring
2006 to study pollution movements from Asia towards North
America, to determine implications for North American air
quality. The timing of the two phases will allow scientists
to look for seasonal variations in the global flow of
The INTEX-NA mission is coordinated under the International
Consortium for Atmospheric Research on Transport and
Transformation (ICARTT). The United Kingdom, Germany, Canada
and France will conduct concurrent airborne campaigns.
Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.; the U.S. Department of
Energy, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, N.Y.;
California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.; and the
Meteorological Service of Canada, Quebec, round out the
INTEX-NA North American partners.
NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise is dedicated to understanding
the Earth as an integrated system and applying Earth System
Science to improve prediction of climate, weather, and
natural hazards using the unique vantage point of space.
For information and images about this research on the
For information about the INTEX-NA campaign on the Internet,