Using NASA Earth Observations as a Tool to Examine PM2.5 Levels in Houston, Texas

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Lisa Waldron1, Justin Roberts-Pierel1, James Gundy1, Melanie Barker1, Richard Anthony Ferrare2, Patricia Sawamura2 and Amy Jo Scarino3, (1)NASA DEVELOP National Program, Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, United States, (2)NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, United States, (3)Science Systems and Applications, Inc. Hampton, Hampton, VA, United States
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 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.