NASA Planes Fly Over Bay Area to Measure Air Pollution Level

First Posted: Feb 02, 2013 10:37 PM EST

NASA is trying to measure the air pollution by flying a plane at various altitudes.

The tests are a part of a larger effort led by the DISCOVER-AQ campaign - a multi-year program launched across the United States in 2011 by NASA's Langley Research Center in
Hampton, Virginia. DISCOVER-AQ stands for Deriving Information on Surface conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality. NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., is the lead center for the mission.

A challenge for Earth-observing satellites measuring air quality is to distinguish between pollution high in the atmosphere and that near the surface where people live and breathe. NASA began a multi-year airborne field campaign in 2011 to tackle this challenge.

The planes will measure matters such as hydrocarbons and nitrous oxide. They study is done together with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

The goalis also to predict air pollution levels as they relate to wind patterns, time of day and other factors recorded during flight, said Laura Iraci, a research scientist with NASA's Ames Research Center's Atmospheric Science Branch.

"We have a set of monitoring stations at ground level that we've used for years to sort of keep track of pollution," Richardson said. "But we've never had a really good sort of three-dimensional picture of what air pollution is doing at various levels of the atmosphere over the Bay Area." says Aaron Richardson from the Air District.

The Bay Area air district contributed $28,000 for the Bay Area portion and will give technical staff to collaborate on the project.

The new data will assist scientists to figure out how pollution moves around the Bay Area which will assist NASA develop an air pollution monitoring satellite.

The aircraft will fly as low as 1,000 feet and as high as 26,000 feet in the Bay Area.

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