NASA is currently running a five-year study known as DISCOVER-AQ — which stands for Deriving Information on Surface conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality — as part of the research of the project that aims to help scientists better understand how to measure and forecast air quality globally from space. So far, two NASA aircrafts equipped with scientific instruments have been dispatched to fly over the California Bay Area to measure air pollution.

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The planes are expected to fly over the San Joaquin Valley between Bakersfield and Fresno through February. Their mission is to help scientists overcome a fundamental challenge to space-based instruments that monitor air quality. The data obtained by the planes should help to distinguish between pollution high in the atmosphere and pollution near the surface where people live.

“DISCOVER-AQ is collecting data that will prepare us to make better observations from space, as well as determine the best mix of observations to have at the surface when we have new satellite instruments in orbit,” said James Crawford, the mission’s principal investigator at NASA’s Langley Research Center. “NASA is planning to launch that satellite instrument, called TEMPO, in 2017.”

Aiding the DISCOVER-AQ planes will be a fleet of Earth-observing satellites, called the Afternoon Constellation, or “A-train,” which will pass over the study area daily in the early afternoon. The study also aims to plug the large gaps in ground-based networks of air pollution monitors — with the planes and satellites working together, scientists will be able 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 we’ve ever had before,” said Kenneth Pickering, DISCOVER-AQ’s project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. “DISCOVER-AQ will help scientists interpret that data to improve air-quality analysis and regional air quality models.”


Via Science World Report

Images: NASA