NASA & Google are improving local air pollution monitoring

Regional governments are promised more effective tools to help protect the public with a greater understanding of their atmosphere. 

NASA and Google are broadening their existing air pollution monitoring partnership in a bid to help local policymakers improve monitoring and prediction efforts. It is hoped this will lead to better decision-making as a result of having more accurate and in-depth information on what populations are breathing in.

view of Earth and satellite

The move will see work undertaken to develop more advanced machine learning algorithms capable of linking NASA and Google Earth Engine data streams, which will make it possible to develop high-resolution air quality maps in near-real-time. 

The so-called Annex Agreement will last for two years, and builds on existing research collaborations between the organisations, essentially increasing the amount of information gleaned by NASA satellites that can be stored on Google Cloud Platform and Google Earth Engine.

Two new data sets have initially been added, one from the Goddard Earth Observing System Composition Forecasts (GEOS-CF), and another from the Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications, Version 2 (MERRA-2). Once effective, analysts can expect access to city-scale estimations and forecasting on harmful pollutants, delivered almost instantly. 

‘We’re thrilled about our partnership with NASA to make daily air quality more actionable at a local level,’ said Rebecca Moore, director at Google Earth, Earth Engine and Outreach at Google.

‘Environmental insights, like high resolution air quality maps, can be useful tools for cities and community organisations who can take action on climate and health in their neighborhoods,’ she continued. ‘This scientific research partnership with NASA will help us improve the resolution, validation and the usefulness of air quality maps in both space and time — giving everyone more data for decisions towards cleaner air.’

Revisit our interview with NASA’s Deputy Programme Applications Lead for the Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols (MAIA) mission, Abigail Nastan, from earlier this year.

Image: NASA


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1 year ago

Sounds good but what exaclty are they going to look at? N02, C02, Particulates, Aerosols, S02. Are we likely to see real-time maps for the curent air, like a weather report? Or just last 24 hrs averaged out, which always includes night time and doesn’t show the peaks or range. How local will the mapping go? it’s useless to know about the general air quality for your county or region (unless that is truly terrible, of course). We’d benefit from knowing the AQ in the specific part of the town, or even the particualr village, where we live and work or go to school.. It’s useless being told the the air is great for your region in general when there’s a large bonfire, dusty roadworks with diesel fumes, or just someone’s chimney polluting the whole street for hours. The reporter says the aim is for ‘high resolution air quality maps” – let’s hope so! Thank you Martin for telling us about this project.

Darlene Deutch
Darlene Deutch
1 year ago

Well, it about time! We continue to breath air polluted by industry, vehicles, biomass, agricultural burning, wood stoves and more daily. It has been proven to cause health problems, global warming and acidification of our waterways. NASA could use the money spent on space travel to fix the planet we all share and call home.

1 year ago
Reply to  Darlene Deutch

Thank you Darlene, I couldn’t agree more!

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