Measuring the Past Decade’s Air Quality of Southwestern Virginia

EarthzineDEVELOP Summer 2013 VPS, Original

Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) imagery measuring atmospheric aerosols over Southwest Virginia and bordering states during February 2009.

Team Location: Wise County Clerk of Court’s Office, Wise, Virginia
Suravi Shrestha (Westminster College)
Daria Blach (University of Virginia’s College at Wise)
Brittany Barnes (Virginia Tech)
Taylor Meade (Virginia Tech)
Kenton Ross, Ph.D. (NASA, DEVELOP National Science Advisor)
Dewayne Cecil, Ph.D. (Global Science and Technology Inc.)
Giovanni Colberg (DEVELOP Wise Center Lead)
Yanina Colberg (DEVELOP Wise Center Lead)
Honorable J. Jack Kennedy Jr. (Wise County/City of Norton Clerk of Court)
Past/Other Contributors:
Angie Robinson (Wise County GIS Department)
Jessica Sweeney (Wise County GIS Department)
Bo Bise (Russell County GIS Department)
Brian Ferguson (Russell County GIS Department)
The majority of coal-fired power facilities are located in a close proximity to the Appalachian Mountains where traditionally a large percentage of the coal produced in America was mined. There are some important advantages for having mining and energy production located within this region. However, the concentration of coal plants can have a number of negative impacts for the region’s environment in addition to the health of the local community. Previous phases of this project focused specifically on monitoring emissions from the Clinch River Plant (CRP) built in 1957 and compared it to the newly operational Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center (VCHEC). Limitations were found due to lack of in-situ emissions data for each site, close proximity of the power plants, and coarse resolution of the Earth-observing satellites. The final phase of the Virginia Air Quality project broadened its focus to a regional rectangle around these two plants and extended the study period to February 2003 to February 2013. The broadened time period and study area allows regional monitoring of changes in sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and other aerosol particles around the Southwest Virginia region. Using a suite of NASA Earth-observing sensors and satellites such as Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI), Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR), Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS), and Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIOP), this project investigated how regulations and environmental laws imposed in the past 10 years have affected the air quality of the region. Impacts to public health also were evaluated by using hospital data on asthma and air quality-related sicknesses. As the demand for electricity sources that are environmentally friendly will continue to increase, this project exemplifies how NASA’s Earth observations can provide decision-support tools for policymakers and energy managers around the globe.

Return to the Summer 2013 VPS page.