Press Release

Satellite air quality tracking in South Asia attracts $750,000 NASA grant

By SpaceRef Editor
October 17, 2019
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Research to assist countries in South Asia in monitoring air quality to provide accurate and timely air quality alerts to the public has attracted a three-year, $750,000 NASA Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Science (ROSES-19) grant.

The grant to track atmospheric aerosols and air quality in the region was presented to NASA’s SERVIR Global team. The project also involves NASA’s Short-term Prediction Research and Transition Center (SPoRT). Both programs are managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and operate from the National Space Science and Technology Center in Cramer Hall at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

Common components of smog and air pollution, atmospheric aerosols are suspensions of fine solid particles or liquid droplets in air. These fine particles can easily enter the lungs and cause health hazards.

“The goal is to work with the Hindu Kush-Himalaya regional SERVIR hub – known as the HKH hub – which is located in Kathmandu, Nepal, to improve their use of aerosol and air quality information from new generation satellites,” says Dr. Aaron Naeger, the science principal investigator for the effort. Co-principal investigator for the project is Dr. Michael Newchurch, UAH professor of atmospheric science.

The HKH hub will in turn work closely with the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), a regional intergovernmental learning and knowledge sharing center serving the eight regional member countries of the Hindu Kush Himalaya – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan – and also based in Kathmandu.

“Their overall aim is to improve the well-being of the mountain environment and people, and help the region adapt to climate change,” says Dr. Naeger, who also is a research scientist in UAH’s Earth System Science Center (ESSC) and a lead aerosol and air quality scientist with NASA SPoRT.

Scientists plan to use data collected from South Korea’s Geostationary Environment Monitoring Spectrometer (GEMS) satellite once it launches in early 2020. A geostationary scanning ultraviolet-visible spectrometer, GEMS will provide hourly daytime monitoring of pollution events over South Asia and the Asia-Pacific region.

GEMS data will be used to assess the regional aerosol and air quality conditions, Dr. Naeger says, as well as to improve the ability of the involved countries to disseminate air quality forecasts and issue public health warnings.

“They have really poor air quality in that region,” Dr. Naeger says. “Our plan is to use real-time satellite data from geostationary orbiting satellites to improve their ability to track and monitor the rapidly varying emissions that govern the air quality conditions across South Asia.”

The data will also be used to introduce the participating countries in the South Asia region to the SERVIR air quality monitoring interface, so that they can use it to better understand what’s in play affecting the air quality of the region.

Longer term, researchers are interested in assisting the regional governments in using the SERVIR system to provide information for use to develop strategies to mitigate air pollution.

“We want to put the satellite data into a robust air quality forecasting system tailored for their region,” Dr. Naeger says.

The research involving the GEMS satellite will inform scientists about the capabilities and utility of the GEMS satellite, helping them prepare for the coming launch of NASA’s Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring Pollution (TEMPO) satellite in 2022, says Dr. Naeger.

As the deputy program applications lead of the TEMPO mission, Dr. Naeger will be the person who will directly interface from UAH’s Cramer Research Hall with TEMPO data users globally.

SpaceRef staff editor.