Houston, we have a problem: Analyzing PM2.5 levels in Houston, Texas

EarthzineDEVELOP Summer 2014 VPS, DEVELOP Virtual Poster Session, Original

Project Team: Texas Health and Air Quality Team
Team Location: NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia

Backscatter in the Houston area for Sept. 6, 2013. Image Credit: Texas Health and Air Quality Team.

Backscatter in the Houston area for Sept. 6, 2013. Image Credit: Texas Health and Air Quality Team.

Lisa Waldron, Project Lead (Brigham Young University)
Justin Roberts-Pierel (Bowdoin College)
Melanie Barker (Old Dominion University)
James Gundy (George Mason University)

Dr. Kenton Ross (NASA DEVELOP, National Science Advisor)
Dr. Richard Ferrare (NASA Langley Research Center)
Amy Jo Scarino (NASA Langley Research Center)
Dr. Patricia Sawamura (NASA Langley Research Center)

Past/Other Contributors:
Michael Acker (U.S. Air Force)
Kyle Bowen (U.S. Air Force)

Surface-level particulate matter (PM2.5) strongly impacts air quality and, other than surface-level ozone, is known for being the most destructive pollutant to both a person’s lungs and overall health. Because of its small size, PM2.5 is able to travel deep enough into a person’s lungs to cause significant damage. PM2.5 monitoring is executed primarily through ground monitors, but the readings are limited to only the specific area where the ground monitors are located. Satellite data can sample a larger area, and therefore provides a more comprehensive reading. This study utilized multiple measurements of aerosol data including Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), airborne in-situ and LIDAR readings collected by the DISCOVER-AQ team, and ground monitoring stations in the Houston, Texas, area. Comparing measurements from these sources produced a more robust understanding of near-surface air pollution. Analyzing measurements from the aircraft and from ground-based monitoring sites can help in evaluating future ground-level pollution measurements from space. Increased accuracy when monitoring can help officials assess and forecast air quality. Efficient air quality forecasts will help the general public take the necessary health precautions, such as avoiding prolonged outdoor activity, when PM2.5 levels are high.

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