To measure air pollution across the United States and other large areas, scientists rely on a patchwork of satellites. While effective at delivering big picture data, the system struggles to provide details on the amount of pollutants just above Earth’s surface — in other words, the air we’re actually breathing.
A new University at Buffalo-led study aims to provide that information across the contiguous United States. Funded by a $528,000 NASA grant, researchers will develop statistical analysis tools and physics-based algorithms to map what they call “near-surface” air pollution.
“There’s an information gap between what current satellites can tell us about air pollution and what’s really happening near Earth’s surface where we live,” says Kang Sun, PhD, research assistant professor in the UB RENEW Institute and the project’s principal investigator. “This is of immense importance because surface air quality not only affects the health of humans but also ecosystems, crops and more.”
Dan Li, PhD, an assistant professor at Boston University, will serve as the project’s co-investigator. Additional researchers represent Harvard University, NASA, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc.
Sun says satellites have substantially advanced the world’s knowledge of air pollution. In turn, this has led to policies that have curtailed pollution and improved human health and the natural environment.