Satellite Data Products and Modelling Approaches Reveal Hazardous Particulate Matter in Air Quality
Columbia, Maryland--June 25, 2021. Universities Space Research Association’s Andrew Sayer co-authored an article published in the journal Science Advances on the effects of COVID-19 related lockdowns in early 2020 on air quality in North America, Europe, and China. The focus is on particulate matter (PM), small particles which are the leading environmental cause of mortality. In particular, PM exposure can exacerbate cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, and there is evidence that this includes the severity of COVID-19 infections.
A thick layer of haze blanketed the North China Plain on October 9, 2014, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this natural-color image at 2:50 Coordinated Universal Time (10:50 a.m. local time). The haze obscured many features usually visible in MODIS imagery of the area, including China’s largest city, Beijing. Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response. Caption by Adam Voiland.
Previous studies on the effects of the lockdowns on air quality have tended to focus on gaseous contributions to air quality, such as nitrogen dioxide, rather than on PM. The two share some common sources caused by humans and both have important detrimental health effects, but they have different life times, and can be generated by other causes as well.
The analysis combined satellite data products from multiple instruments, generated by Dr. Sayer along with others at NASA GFSC and JPL, with modelling approaches led by Washington University in St. Louis and Dalhousie University in Canada, as well as ground-level PM monitors. The lead author of the study is Melanie Hammer at Washington University in St. Louis and Dalhousie University in Canada.
The research found, relative to the same times of year in 2018-2019, large decreases in near-surface average particulate matter concentrations in China, and much smaller decreases in North America and Europe. The differences were analyzed in the context of meteorological differences between the years as well as potential emissions reductions (mostly due to transportation) and existing long-term trends in the regions. It highlights the importance of all of these factors in interpreting particulate matter changes in different parts of the world, as well as our abilities to monitor them using state-of-the-art observation and modeling approaches.
For more information , please see: https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/7/26/eabg7670/tab-pdf
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