Category: Assessing Air Quality & Water Resources
Project Team: Appalachian Trail Health & Air Quality
Team Location: NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia, and Wise County Clerk of Court’s Office, Wise, Virginia
Dr. Kenton Ross (NASA Langley Research Center)
Dr. Travis Knepp (Science Systems and Applications Inc.)
Emily Gotschalk (Center Lead)
Tyler Rhodes (Center Lead)
Ozone in the stratosphere serves as a boundary that absorbs harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Ozone in the troposphere is hazardous to human and plant health. Anthropogenic activities, such as fossil fuel combustion, are the main catalysts for high levels of tropospheric ozone, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur oxides. The warmer months, from May to September, typically display higher levels of tropospheric ozone located near urban areas with large populations. Tropospheric ozone forms from nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) reacting with sunlight, and fluctuates throughout the day displaying its peak concentration during mid-to-late afternoon. Lower concentrations occur during the early morning when the planetary boundary layer (PBL) is lowest and ozone molecules have not formed from the nitrogen oxide and VOCs reacting. NASA Earth observations can be used to monitor these atmospheric constituents. This project used Aura’s Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) and Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) to look at tropospheric ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. The analysis and mapping of these atmospheric constituents provided data to compare to the National Park Service’s ground-level air quality stations. This project determined whether OMI and MLS are effective sensors for observing air pollutants in the troposphere and created visual aids of correlations and general trends.