Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Pollution Visible From East Asia To North America In New Satellite Image

Date:
March 18, 2008
Source:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Summary:
In a new NASA study, researchers taking advantage of improvements in satellite sensor capabilities offer the first measurement-based estimate of the amount of pollution from East Asian forest fires, urban exhaust and industrial production that makes its way to western North America.

In a new NASA study, researchers taking advantage of improvements in satellite sensor capabilities offer the first measurement-based estimate of the amount of pollution from East Asian forest fires, urban exhaust, and industrial production that makes its way to western North America.
Credit: Image courtesy of NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

In a new NASA study, researchers taking advantage of improvements in satellite sensor capabilities offer the first measurement-based estimate of the amount of pollution from East Asian forest fires, urban exhaust, and industrial production that makes its way to western North America.

Related Articles


China, the world's most populated country, has experienced rapid industrial growth, massive human migrations to urban areas, and considerable expansion in automobile use over the last two decades. As a result, the country has doubled its emissions of man-made pollutants to become the world's largest emitter of tiny particles called pollution aerosols that are transported across the Pacific Ocean by rapid airstreams emanating from East Asia.

Hongbin Yu, an associate research scientist of the University of Maryland Baltimore County working at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., grew up in China and taught there as a university professor, where he witnessed first-hand and studied how pollution from nearby power plants in China affected the local environment. Early this decade, scientists began using emerging high-accuracy satellite data to answer key questions about the role tiny particles play in the atmosphere, and eventually expanded their research to include continent-to-continent pollution transport. So Yu teamed with other researchers to take advantage of the innovations in satellite technology and has now made the first-ever satellite-based estimate of pollution aerosols transported from East Asia to North America.

The new measurements from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA's Terra satellite substantiate the results of previous model-based studies, and are the most extensive to date. The new study will be published this spring in the American Geophysical Union's Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres.

"We used the latest satellite capabilities to distinguish industrial pollution and smoke from dust transported to the western regions of North America from East Asia. Looking at four years of data from 2002 to 2005 we estimated the amount of pollution arriving in North America to be equivalent to about 15 percent of local emissions of the U.S. and Canada," Yu said. "This is a significant percentage at a time when the U.S. is trying to decrease pollution emissions to boost overall air quality. This means that any reduction in our emissions may be offset by the pollution aerosols coming from East Asia and other regions."

Yu and his colleagues measured the trans-Pacific flow of pollution in teragrams, a unit of measurement of the mass of pollution aerosol (1 teragram is about 2.2 billion pounds). Satellite data confirmed 18 teragrams -- almost 40 billion pounds -- of pollution aerosol was exported to the northwestern Pacific Ocean and 4.5 teragrams -- nearly 10 billion pounds -- reached North America annually from East Asia over the study period.

Yu points out, however, that the matter of pollution transport is a global one. "Our study focused on East Asian pollution transport, but pollution also flows from Europe, North America, the broader Asian region and elsewhere, across bodies of water and land, to neighboring areas and beyond," he said. "So we should not simply blame East Asia for this amount of pollution flowing into North America." In fact, in a model study published last November in the Journal of Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, Mian Chin, also a co-author of this study and an atmospheric scientist at NASA Goddard, suggests that European pollution also makes a significant contribution to the pollution inflow to North America.

"Satellite instruments give us the ability to capture more accurate measurements, on a nearly daily basis across a broader geographic region and across a longer time frame so that the overall result is a better estimate than any other measurement method we've had in the past," said study co-author Lorraine Remer, a physical scientist and member of the MODIS science team at NASA Goddard. The MODIS instrument can distinguish between broad categories of particles in the air, and observes Earth's entire surface every one to two days, enabling it to monitor movement of the East Asian pollution aerosols as they rise into the lower troposphere, the area of the atmosphere where we live and breathe, and make their way across the Pacific and up into the middle and upper regions of the troposphere.

Remer added that the research team also found that pollution movements fluctuate during the year, with the East Asian airstream carrying its largest "load" in spring and smallest in summer. The most extensive East Asian export of pollution across the Pacific took place in 2003, triggered by record-breaking wildfires across vast forests of East Asia and Russia. Notably, the pollution aerosols also travel quickly. They cross the ocean and journey into the atmosphere above North American in as little as one week.

"Using this imaging instrument, we cannot determine at what level of elevation in the atmosphere pollution travels. So, we do not have a way in this study to assess the degree of impact the pollution aerosols from China have on air quality here once they cross over to North America. We need improved technology to make that determination," said Remer. "Nevertheless, we realize there is indeed impact. For example, particles like these have been linked to regional weather and climate effects through interactions between pollution aerosols and the Sun's heat energy. Since pollution transport is such a broad global issue, it is important moving forward to extend this kind of study to other regions, to see how much pollution is migrating from its source regions to others, when, and how fast," said Remer.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "Pollution Visible From East Asia To North America In New Satellite Image." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 March 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080317164336.htm>.
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. (2008, March 18). Pollution Visible From East Asia To North America In New Satellite Image. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080317164336.htm
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "Pollution Visible From East Asia To North America In New Satellite Image." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080317164336.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

EU Gets Climate Deal, UK PM Gets Knock

EU Gets Climate Deal, UK PM Gets Knock

Reuters - Business Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) EU leaders achieve a show of unity by striking a compromise deal on carbon emissions. But David Cameron's bid to push back EU budget contributions gets a slap in the face as the European Commission demands an extra 2bn euros. David Pollard reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Tornado Rips Roofs in Washington State

Raw: Tornado Rips Roofs in Washington State

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) A rare tornado ripped roofs off buildings, uprooted trees and shattered windows Thursday afternoon in the southwest Washington city of Longview, but there were no reports of injuries. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fast-Moving Lava Headed For Town On Hawaii's Big Island

Fast-Moving Lava Headed For Town On Hawaii's Big Island

Newsy (Oct. 24, 2014) Lava from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island has accelerated as it travels toward a town called Pahoa. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins