NASA has published the first maps from its new space pollution instrument, TEMPO (Tropospheric Emissions: Pollution Monitoring). Although you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it reveals higher rates of pollution in urban areas, the tool could help scientists better study air quality in North America around the clock. “Neighborhoods and communities across the country will benefit from game-changing TEMPO data for decades to come,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson wrote in a press release today.
The instrument, which was launched in April and orbits 22,000 miles above the equator, could help scientists better study the health effects of pollutants “at a neighborhood scale”. It can take hourly measurements, providing insight into the effects of rush hour traffic, smoke and ash from wildfires, and how fertilizers affect the country’s agriculture. The instrument measures sunlight bouncing off the Earth’s surface, atmosphere and clouds. NASA explained that “gases in the atmosphere absorb sunlight, and the resulting spectra are then used to determine the concentrations of several gases in the air, including nitrogen dioxide.”
NASA says it will share its data with partner agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Since taking the first measurements earlier this month, teams have been busy checking and calibrating satellite systems before the start of regular hourly operations in October. And NASA views the data as a boon in its pursuit of the Biden administration’s climate goals.
The tool sent it back First photos On August 2nd, it shows the I-95 corridor in the northeast (areas of New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.), a chunk of the south (central and eastern Texas extending to New Orleans) and a chunk of the southwest (from Los Angeles to New Orleans and Las Vegas). As expected, the maps reveal a dense concentration of nitrogen dioxide over cities and its sprawl into the suburbs.
“Detailed views of three regions show elevated levels of nitrogen dioxide over cities in the morning, and enhanced levels of nitrogen dioxide over major highways,” NASA wrote today. “As the day progresses, morning pollution often dissipates. Later in the afternoon, it will pick up again as cities enter the second rush hour of the day.
“This summer, millions of Americans felt firsthand the impact of smoke from wildfires on our health,” Nelson said. “NASA and the Biden-Harris Administration are committed to making it easier for ordinary Americans and policymakers to access and use TEMPO data to monitor and improve the quality of the air we breathe, benefiting life here on Earth.”
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