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Health and Air Quality Data Pathfinder

Air quality is a global issue as seen here in cities around the world . Credit: National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)

Air quality is a global issue as seen in these images of major cities around the world. Credit: National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

According to the United Nations, air pollution kills an estimated seven million people every year, making it one of the biggest environmental health risks. Poor air quality is exacerbated in low to middle-income countries, where 98% of urban centers with populations greater than 100,000 do not meet World Health Organization air quality guidelines.

Air pollution is caused by both human activities and natural events, including cookstoves, coal-fired power plants, vehicle emissions, wildfires, and dust storms. Air quality managers and public health researchers must monitor air pollutants locally, regionally, and globally to further determine the risk for health conditions or diseases that can be exacerbated by poor air quality. This is critical as countries strive to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 3: Good Health and Well Being for all at every stage of life.

Since air pollution is transboundary, a combination of ground- and satellite-based tools is necessary to better understand the movement and impact of events leading to poor air quality. Remotely-sensed data help scientists, researchers, and decision makers forecast events and assess conditions in near real-time to make critical decisions. This Data Pathfinder provides links to relevant datasets that can be useful in investigations into air quality along with examples of tools that can be helpful in working with these data. While not designed to be a complete list of all salient data and tools in NASA's Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) collection, the following sections will help you chart a path to finding the best data and tools for your particular needs.

About the Data

About the Data

NASA collaborates with other federal entities and international space organizations to collect and distribute air quality data. Many NASA data products provide information on primary (directly emitted) and secondary pollutants (formed by chemical reactions), some of which can serve as precursors to other types of air pollution.

Datasets referenced in this Data Pathfinder are from the satellite and airborne sensors shown in the table below. While many satellites/platforms carry multiple sensors, the table below only lists the primary sensor used in collecting the specified measurement. NASA's Land, Atmosphere Near real-time Capability for EOS (LANCE) provides data to the public within three hours of a satellite observation, which allows for near real-time (NRT) monitoring and decision making. Sensors from which select datasets are available in LANCE are marked with an asterisk (*).

NOTE: This is not an exhaustive list of datasets but rather only includes datasets from NASA's Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) collection.

Measurement Satellite Sensor Spatial Resolution Temporal Resolution
Aerosol Index, Aerosol Optical Depth, Nitrogen Dioxide, Ozone, Sulfur Dioxide Aura Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) 13 km x 24 km daily
Aerosol Index, Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, Ozone, Sulfur Dioxide Sentinel-5P TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI) 7 km x 3.5 km daily
Aerosol Index, Sulfur Dioxide Suomi National Polar-orbiting Parternship (Suomi NPP) Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) 50 km x 50 km 101 minutes, daily
Aerosol Optical Depth, Land Surface Reflectance Terra and Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) 250 m, 500 m, 1 km 1-2 days
Aerosol Optical Depth, Land Surface Reflectance Suomi-NPP Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) 375 m, 750 m 1-2 days
Carbon Monoxide Terra Measurement of Pollution in the Troposphere (MOPITT) 1° x 1° daily, monthly
Carbon Monoxide, Dust Score, Ozone Aqua Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) Level 2 and 3 products 1° x 1° daily, 8-day, monthly

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Use the Data

Use the Data
Side by side images showing smoke from a wildfire and the U.S. East Coast with colors indicating concentrations of nitrogen dioxide.

Left image: Particulate pollution can be assessed qualitatively using visual imagery, as in this Terra/MODIS image of smoke from the Camp Fire acquired in November 2018. Right image: Particulate matter and trace gases can be measured quantitatively through atmospheric column products, such as in this image showing average concentrations of nitrogen dioxide along the U.S. East Coast. Credit: NASA Worldview (left image); NASA Science Visualization Studio (right image).

There are three primary ways remotely sensed data can be used: for qualitative applications, for quantitative applications, and for more advanced analyses. To learn more these three uses, see the Getting Started Resource by NASA's Health and Air Quality Applied Sciences Team.

For qualitative use, remotely sensed images enable air quality managers to assess the spatial extent of pollutants, track the atmospheric transport of pollutants, and map trends in air pollution. Quantitatively, remotely sensed data can be used to assess the change and relative abundance of pollutants. Finally, when combined with complementary data sources, remotely sensed data support a wide range of advanced analyses.

Below are some use cases showing applications of air quality data:

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Find Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) Data

Find Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) Data

Screenshot showing 2 world maps displaying burning fires and a second map showing average monthly aerosol amounts.

Locations of burning fires (top image) compared to average monthly aerosol optical depth (bottom image).

When discussing air quality, the term aerosol refers to minute suspended particles in the air. An important air quality assessment is the column-integrated value of aerosols in the atmosphere, a measurement called aerosol optical depth (AOD). AOD is obtained by measuring the scattering and absorption of solar energy from the top of the atmosphere to the surface. The non-aerosol signal of surface reflectance needs to be separated from the aerosol signal to accurately obtain AOD measurements. This is challenging because the satellite instrument cannot penetrate cloud cover and highly reflective surfaces, such as ice or snow. This can lead to misrepresentations of the data. As such, scientists have developed two algorithms for use with data acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) to help with these effects: Dark Target and Deep Blue.

The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) aboard the joint NASA/NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite also collects AOD data at a much finer spatial resolution. VIIRS uses the Deep Blue algorithm over land and the Satellite Ocean Aerosol Retrieval (SOAR) algorithm over water to determine atmospheric aerosol loading for daytime cloud-free, snow-free scenes. With all of the VIIRS data, downloading a VIIRS AOD file will provide the data with just the land algorithm, just the ocean algorithm, and the merged algorithm. As with all remote sensing data, make sure you are choosing the best product for your area.

Data Products for Measuring AOD

Research quality AOD data products can be accessed using Earthdata Search. Data are in HDF or NetCDF format, and can be opened using NASA's Panoply netCDF, HDF, and GRIB data viewer.

  • MODIS/Aqua AOD (3km resolution, merged algorithm)
  • MODIS/Terra AOD (3km resolution, merged algorithm)
  • MODIS Terra/Aqua-MAIAC Retrieval AOD
    Multi-angle Implementation of Atmospheric Correction (MAIAC) Land AOD utilizes a new advanced algorithm that uses time series (TMS) analysis and a combination of pixel- and image-based processing to improve the accuracy of cloud detection, aerosol retrievals, and atmospheric correction.

Available through Giovanni

Using an online interactive tool called Giovanni, which is available through NASA's Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center (GES DISC), data products can be visualized as a time-averaged map, an animation, seasonal maps, scatter plots, or a time series. More information about using Giovanni is available in the Tools for Data Access and Visualization section, below.

  • OMI AOD
    The Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) aboard NASA's Aura satellite has a coarser spatial resolution than MODIS and VIIRS, but provides data at individual wavelengths ranging from the ultraviolet (UV) to the visible. Using Giovanni, you can plot daily data at these individual wavelengths. This is important because pollutants have different spectral signatures; for example, a wavelength range around 400 nm can be used to detect elevated layers of absorbing aerosols such as biomass burning and desert dust plumes. The two AOD products provided through Giovanni use two different algorithms—OMI Multi-wavelength (OMAERO) and OMI UV (OMAERUV). OMI Multi-wavelength (OMAERO) is based on the multi-wavelength algorithm and uses up to 20 wavelength bands between 331 nm and 500 nm. This algorithm uses reflectances for a wide variety of microphysical aerosol models representative of desert dust, biomass burning, volcanic, and weakly absorbing aerosol types. OMI UV (OMAERUV) uses the near-UV algorithm, which is capable of retrieving aerosol properties over a wider variety of land surfaces than is possible using measurements only in the visible or near-IR because the reflectance of terrestrial surfaces (not covered with snow) is small in the UV.
  • MODIS AOD
    Provides data products with both algorithms as well as the combined algorithm at daily and monthly intervals.

Available through NASA Worldview

NRT data can be accessed using the NASA Worldview interactive data visualization tool.

  • MODIS Aqua/Terra Combined Algorithm AOD
    The merged Dark Target/Deep Blue AOD layer provides a more global, synoptic view of AOD over land and ocean. It is available from 2000 to present.
  • VIIRS Level 2 Deep Blue Aerosol Product
    The product uses the Deep Blue algorithm over land and the SOAR algorithm over water to determine atmospheric aerosol loading. The product is designed to facilitate continuity in the aerosol record. Deep Blue uses measurements from multiple Earth observing satellites to determine the concentration of atmospheric aerosols along with the properties of these aerosols.
  • OMI AOD Multi-wavelength and UV
    The multi-wavelength layer and the UV absorbing layer displays the degree to which aerosols prevent the transmission of light through the process of absorption (attenuation), and the UV extinction layer indicates the level at which aerosols prevent light (extinction of light) from traveling through the atmosphere. Toggling between these layers can provide more distinction on the types of aerosols present.

NASA Applied Sciences Resources

The Applied Remote Sensing Training (ARSET) program has a Jupyter Notebook that accesses VIIRS AOD data and converts AOD to measurements of particulate matter 2.5 microns or less in diameter (PM2.5) available through the ARSET GitHub site. For more information on using this notebook, view the MODIS to VIIRS Transition for Air Quality Applications and other Health and Air Quality Trainings.

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AOD to PM2.5

AOD to PM2.5

Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) is a quantitative estimate of the amount of suspended particles (aerosols) present in the atmosphere. AOD is a unitless measure of the extinction of a ray of light through scattering or absorption as light passes through the atmosphere. Factors affecting AOD include humidity, the vertical distribution of aerosols, and the shape of the suspended particles. For example, an increase in humidity will increase the size of particles and therefore increase the AOD.

Particulate matter (PM) describes the complex mixture of solids and aerosols composed of small droplets of liquid, dry solid fragments, and solid cores with liquid coatings. Fine particulate matter is defined as particles that are 2.5 microns or less in diameter, and designated PM2.5. PM2.5 concentrations are a measure of the mass of particles in a specific size range within a given volume of air near the surface. 

While both AOD and PM2.5 can be used to assess air quality, there are differences between these two measurements:

  • AOD is an optical measurement; PM2.5 is a mass concentration measurement.
  • AOD is an integrated column measurement from the top of the atmosphere to the surface; PM2.5 is a ground measurement.
  • AOD is an area-averaged measurement; PM2.5 a point measurement.

Because the two measurements are so different, it may seem that there is no correlation. However, AOD and PM2.5 do correlate, and there are several different techniques to derive estimates of PM2.5 from AOD. These techniques are described in the NASA Applied Sciences Applied Remote Sensing Training (ARSET) Program's Applications of Satellite Observations for Air Quality and Health Exposure: The Relationship Between AOD and PM2.5. Additionally, ARSET has a Jupyter Notebook available through the ARSET GitHub site that accesses VIIRS AOD data and converts AOD to PM2.5. For more information on using this notebook, view the MODIS to VIIRS Transition for Air Quality Applications and other Health and Air Quality Trainings.

Ground-based AOD measurements are available online through the Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET). The Environmental Protection Agency’s ground-based PM and Ozone combined Air Quality Index (AQI) can be accessed at AirNow. AirNow International is an international program for AQI, with information provided from partnering organizations.

For trends in PM2.5, there are several resources that utilize both ground-based and remote sensing data.

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Find Trace Gas Data

Find Trace Gas Data

Nitrogen Dioxide | Sulfur Dioxide | Carbon Monoxide | Ozone

Along with the sources noted below, Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), Carbon Monoxide (CO), and Ozone (O3) data also are available through geospatial web map services. For information on accessing the data within a GIS program, please see the Earthdata Atmosphere Geospatial Services page.

Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)

The primary sources of nitrogen dioxide are automobile exhaust, industry, and the burning of fossil fuels. Once in the atmosphere, it can aggravate respiratory conditions in humans, especially those with asthma, leading to an increase of symptoms, hospital admissions, and emergency visits. Long-term exposure can lead to the development of asthma and potentially increase susceptibility to respiratory infections. NO2 reacts with other chemicals in the atmosphere to form particulate matter and ozone, producing haze and even acid rain, and contributes to nitrogen pollution in coastal waters. NASA's Air Quality site provides more information on NO2 as well as trend maps and pre-made images of NO2 over cities and power plants.

NO2 data products available through Giovanni

Data products can be visualized as a time-averaged map, an animation, seasonal maps, scatter plots, or a time series through an online interactive tool called Giovanni.

NO2 data products available through NASA Worldview

Near real-time NO2 data can be accessed using the NASA Worldview interactive data visualization tool.

NASA also has a global nitrogen dioxide monitoring site that provides imagery of daily NO2 from OMI.

Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)

Sulfur dioxide measurements from Aura's Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI).

Sulfur dioxide measurements from Aura's Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI). Source: NASA Aura

Ozone Monitoring Instrument

The primary sources of sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution are the burning of fossil fuels by power plants and industry. Volcanic emissions also contribute SO2, but in relatively smaller quantities. As with NO2, sulfur dioxide can aggravate respiratory conditions in humans, especially those with asthma, and lead to an increase of symptoms, hospital admissions, and emergency visits. In areas with high levels of SO2, sulfur oxides can react with other components to create small particles that that can be ingested by humans and affect health. High concentrations of SO2 can lower visibility and lead to acid rain.

  • OMI SO2 Data
    OMI provides daily total column data at a resolution of 13x24 km; data are in HDF5 format and can be opened using Panoply.
  • OMPS SO2 Data
    SO2 Total and Tropospheric Column data from the Ozone Mapping and Profiling Suite (OMPS) Nadir-Mapper (NM) sensor aboard the Suomi NPP satellite; data are in HDF5 format and can be opened using Panoply. Note that the data are at the various atmospheric levels (planetary boundary layer, stratospheric layer, and tropospheric layers).
  • TROPOMI SO2 data
    The ESA TROPOMI SO2 data landing page provides additional information on this Level 2 data product. As with the NO2 data above, you will need to adjust the scaling factor. Data are in NetCDF format and can be opened using Panoply.

SO2 data products available through Giovanni

Data products can be visualized as a time-averaged map, an animation, seasonal maps, scatter plots, or a time series through an online interactive tool called Giovanni.

SO2 data products available through NASA Worldview

Near real-time SO2 data can be accessed using the NASA Worldview interactive data visualization tool.

NASA also has a global sulfur dioxide monitoring site that provides imagery of daily SO2 from OMI, OMPS, and TROPOMI. The site also provides information on the source of emissions.

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a harmful pollutant that is released when something is burned, such as in the combustion of fossil fuels (which is a primary source) or through biomass burning. Outdoor levels are rarely high enough to cause issues; when they do reach dangerous levels, however, they can be of concern to people with certain types of heart disease.

  • AIRS CO data
    The Atmospheric Infra-red Sounder (AIRS) instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite measures the abundance of trace components in the atmosphere, including CO. Data are available daily (AIRS3STD), over 8 days (AIRS3ST8), or monthly (AIRS3STM). The instrument measures the amount of CO in the total vertical column profile of the atmosphere (from Earth’s surface to top-of-atmosphere). Data are in HDF format, and can be opened using Panoply.
  • MOPITT CO data
    The Measurements of Pollution in the Troposphere (MOPITT) instrument aboard NASA's Terra satellite measures the amount of CO present in the total vertical column of the lower atmosphere (troposphere) and is measured in mole per square centimeter (mol/cm2). Data are available daily or monthly. Data are acquired using the thermal and near-infrared channels. Data are in HDF5 format, and can be opened using Panoply.
  • TROPOMI CO data
    The ESA TROPOMI CO data landing page provides additional information on this Level 2 data product. As with the NO2 and SO2 data above, you will need to adjust the scaling factor. Data are in NetCDF format, and can be opened using Panoply.

CO data products available through Giovanni

Data products can be visualized as a time-averaged map, an animation, seasonal maps, scatter plots, or a time series through an online interactive tool called Giovanni.

CO data products available through NASA Worldview

Near real-time CO data can be accessed using the NASA Worldview interactive data visualization tool.

  • AIRS CO data: AIRS Level 2 data are nominally 45 km/pixel at the equator, but the data in Worldview have been resampled into a 32 km/pixel visualization. The data are in units of parts per billion by volume at the 500 hPa pressure level, which is approximately 5,500 meters (18,000 feet) above sea level.
  • MOPITT CO data

Ozone (O3)

Ozone (O3) can be beneficial or harmful depending on where it is found in the atmosphere. In high levels of the atmosphere (the stratosphere), O3 protects humans, plants, and animals from harmful UV radiation. In lower levels of the atmosphere, a level called the troposphere, O3 is a potent greenhouse gas and can aggravate existing health problems in humans, especially those with respiratory illnesses. O3 is not emitted directly into the atmosphere but forms from the chemical reaction between nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds that are emitted primarily from cars, power plants, and other industrial facilities. These chemical reactions take place in the presence of sunlight. Because of the need for sunlight, unhealthy ozone levels are most often reached on very sunny days and in urban environments.

Ozone can be either good or bad, depending on where it is found in the atmosphere. In the stratosphere, ozone protects humans, plants, and animals from harmful UV radiation. In the troposphere or closer to the ground level, however, ozone serves as a potent greenhouse gas and can aggravate existing health problems in humans.

Ozone can be either good or bad, depending on where it is found in the atmosphere. In the stratosphere, ozone protects humans, plants, and animals from harmful UV radiation. In the troposphere or closer to the ground level, however, ozone serves as a potent greenhouse gas and can aggravate existing health problems in humans. Source: NASA Aura

  • OMI O3 data
    OMI provides daily total column data; data are in HDF5 format and can be opened using Panoply.
  • AIRS O3 data
    AIRS measures abundances of trace components in the atmosphere including ozone. Data are available daily (AIRS3STD), over 8 days (AIRS3ST8), or monthly (AIRS3STM). The instrument measures the amount of O3 in the total vertical column profile of the atmosphere (from Earth’s surface to top-of-atmosphere). Data are in HDF format and can be opened using Panoply.
  • TROPOMI O3 data
    The ESA TROPOMI O3 data landing page provides additional information on this Level 2 data product. Data are in NetCDF format and can be opened using Panoply.

O3 data products available through Giovanni

Data products can be visualized as a time-averaged map, an animation, seasonal maps, scatter plots, or a time series through an online interactive tool Giovanni.

O3 data products available through NASA Worldview

Near real-time O3 data can be accessed using the NASA Worldview interactive data visualization tool.

  • OMI O3 data
    Visualization of the amount of ozone in the total column measured in Dobson Units (DU).

Trends on a national and regional level are available through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA’s) Air Quality Trends website.

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Find Pollutant Transport Data

Find Pollutant Transport Data

Aerosol Index | Dust Score | Surface Reflectance

Aerosol Index

Aerosol Index (AI) is a measurement related to AOD and indicates the presence of an increased amount of aerosols in the atmosphere. The main aerosol types that cause signals detected in this value are desert dust, significant fire events, biomass burning, and volcanic ash plumes. The lower the AI, the clearer the sky.

During one day in August, tropical cyclones, dust storms, and fires spread tiny particles throughout the atmosphere.

During one day in August, tropical cyclones, dust storms, and fires spread tiny particles throughout the atmosphere. Source: NASA Earth Observatory

  • OMI AI data
    OMI provides an Ultraviolet Aerosol Index; data are in HDF5 format and can be opened using Panoply. Note that when opening the data in Panoply, there are a number of different data fields from which to choose. Select "UVAerosolIndex".
  • TROPOMI AI data
    The ESA TROPOMI AI data landing page provides additional information on this Level 2 data product. Data are in NetCDF format and can be opened using Panoply.

AI data products available through Giovanni

Data products can be visualized as a time-averaged map, an animation, seasonal maps, scatter plots, or a time series using an online interactive tool called Giovanni.

AI data products available through NASA Worldview

Near real-time AI data can be accessed using the NASA Worldview interactive data visualization tool.

  • OMI AI data
  • OMPS AI data
    OMPS Aerosol Index layer indicates the presence of ultraviolet (UV)-absorbing particles in the air.

Dust Score

A Dust Score indicates the level of atmospheric aerosols in Earth’s atmosphere over the ocean. The numerical scale is a qualitative representation of the presence of dust in the atmosphere, an indication of where large dust storms may form, and the areas that may be affected.

AI data products available through NASA Worldview

  • AIRS Dust Score
    Measurement from the AIRS Infrared quality assurance subset; the imagery resolution is 2 km.

Surface Reflectance

Surface reflectance describes the amount of light reflected by the surface of Earth, which can be affected by atmospheric dust and other aerosols. In comparison with the MODIS Corrected Reflectance product, the MODIS Land Atmospherically Corrected Surface Reflectance product (MOD09) is a more complete atmospheric correction algorithm that includes aerosol correction and is designed to derive land surface properties.

All of the below data products are in HDF format and can be opened using Panoply. The data are also customizable to GeoTIFF (see Tools for Data Access and Visualization section).

Surface reflectance data also are acquired by instruments aboard the joint NASA/USGS Landsat series of satellites. The Landsat 7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper (ETM+) sensor and the Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) instrument acquire data at 30 m spatial resolution in visible and near-infrared (VNIR) every 16 days (or less as you move away from the equator). Surface reflectance data from the OLI-2 sensor aboard the the recently launched Landsat 9 satellite are now available. The OLI-2 design is a copy of Landsat 8’s OLI, and provides data for nine spectral bands with a maximum ground sampling distance (GSD), both in-track and cross track, of 30 m for all bands except the panchromatic band, which has a 15-m GSD.

Landsat data can be discovered using Earthdata Search, however, you will need a USGS Earth Explorer login to download the data.

Another high resolution option is the Harmonized Landsat and Sentinel-2 (HLS) project, which provides consistent surface reflectance and top of atmosphere brightness data from the OLI aboard the joint NASA/USGS Landsat 8 satellite and the Multi-Spectral Instrument (MSI) aboard the ESA (European Space Agency) Sentinel-2A and Sentinel-2B satellites. Data from the Landsat 9 OLI-2 will be incorporated into the HLS data stream. HLS provides global land observations every 2–3 days at 30 m spatial resolution.

Surface reflectance data products available through NASA Worldview

  • MODIS Land Surface Reflectance data
    These images are called true-color or natural color because this combination of wavelengths is similar to what the human eye sees. The images are natural-looking images of land surface, ocean, and atmospheric features. Some band combinations highlight certain types of features better than others. The information for this dataset provides more details.
  • HLS Surface Reflectance

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Find Socioeconomic Data

Find Socioeconomic Data
The Global Annual PM2.5 Grids from MODIS, MISR and SeaWiFS Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) with GWR, 1998–2016 consist of annual concentrations (micrograms per cubic meter) of ground-level fine particulate matter (PM2.5),with dust and sea-salt removed.

The Global Annual PM2.5 Grids from MODIS, MISR, and SeaWiFS Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) with GWR, 1998–2016, consist of annual concentrations (micrograms per cubic meter) of ground-level fine particulate matter (PM2.5),with dust and sea-salt removed. Credit: NASA's SEDAC.

Deaths related to air quality and diseases exacerbated by air pollution are preventable, but prevention requires a knowledge of where vulnerable populations exist and the interventions needed in these communities. Combining data of observed particulate matter acquired by airborne, satellite, or ground observations with socioeconomic data can help do just that. NASA's home for socioeconomic data in the EOSDIS collection is NASA's Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC). Hosted at Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), SEDAC synthesizes Earth science and socioeconomic data and information in ways useful to a wide range of decision makers and other applied users and serves as an “Information Gateway” between the socioeconomic and Earth science data and information domains.

SEDAC provides a number of datasets on population exposure and vulnerability, including:

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Public Health

Public Health

Air pollution is a serious global health issue. In fact, 91% of the world's population live in areas where air quality exceeds air quality guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO). Breathing particulate matter and other pollutants increases the risks of numerous illnesses, including pulmonary disease, respiratory infections, and lung cancer. Poor air quality also contributes to heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.

NASA's Applied Remote Sensing Training (ARSET) Program has numerous air quality webinars and offers courses that provide an overview of NASA Earth science resources that may be useful for monitoring and predicting health for decision support:

In addition, there are numerous health sites that provide information regarding public health as it relates to air pollution:

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Other NASA Assets of Interest

Other NASA Assets of Interest

NASA's Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols (MAIA) investigation will seek to understand how different types of air pollution affect human health. Data collected by MAIA will be used to produce unique maps of particulate matter (PM) air pollution that epidemiologists will use to study how different different sizes, shapes, and compositions of PM affect our health. The three-year investigation marks the first-ever partnership between NASA, epidemiologists and health organizations to use space-based data to study human health and improve lives. MAIA is scheduled for launch in 2023.

NASA's Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) mission will be the first space-based instrument to monitor air pollutants hourly across the North American continent during daytime. It will collect high-resolution measurements of ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and other pollutants. The goal is to launch in 2022 as part of a geostationary telecommunications satellite. NASA's Atmospheric Science Data Center's (ASDC’s) Science Outreach Team created an interactive ArcGIS StoryMap called Introduction to MAIA and TEMPO.

NASA's Air Quality Citizen Science is a NASA ESDS-funded effort to add value to AOD measurements obtained by NASA's Aqua and Terra satellites. Citizen scientists are helping create a network of high quality, low-cost sensors in Los Angeles, California; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Delhi, India.

Citizen-Enabled Aerosol Measurements for Satellites (CEAMS) is another ESDS-funded citizen science program. CEAMS is improving our understanding of how aerosols affect local air quality through the collection of backyard air quality measurements using Sun photometers.

NASA's Short-term Prediction Research and Transition Center (SPoRT) is a project to transition unique observations and research capabilities to the operational weather community to improve short-term forecasts on a regional scale. SPoRT provides access to numerous near real-time datasets that provide information on dust transport. The SPoRT dust guide provides information on dust imagery and interpretation.

Finally, My NASA Data is an effort to develop microsets of Earth science data that are accessible, interesting, and useful to the K-12 grade levels and to citizen scientist communities. My NASA Data's Earth System Data Explorer data visualization tool provides data that already have been cataloged and formatted, which enables maps of the data to easily be plotted.

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External Resources

External Resources

Explore 19 Years of Global Air Quality in Living Atlas showcases how global air quality patterns have changed over time and how poor air quality impacts the human population. The feature layer contains aggregated PM2.5 concentrations offered by NASA SEDAC at multiple geography levels. At each geography level you can learn more about the trends, statistical patterns, and population impact of air quality throughout the world.

Global Air Quality is an Esri StoryMap showing 19 years of particulate matter in the air.

The Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD), out of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, provides rigorous and comparable measurement of the world's most important health problems and evaluates the strategies used to address them.

State of the Global Air, developed as part of the GBD, provides an interactive tool to view and compare the latest air pollution and health data, create custom maps and graphs, and download images and data.

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Tools for Data Access and Visualization

Tools for Data Access and Visualization

Earthdata Search | Panoply | Giovanni | Worldview

NASA Earthdata Search is a search and discovery tool for Earth observation data. Users (including those without specific knowledge of the data) can search for and read about data collections, search for data files by date and spatial area, preview browse images, and download or submit requests for data files. Select data collections can be customized.

Screenshot of the Search Earthdata site.

In the project area, users can select to customize data granules. Data can be reformatted and output in HDF, NetCDF, ASCII, KML or GeoTIFF format. A variety of projection options are available. Data also can be subset, so only the bands that are needed can be obtained.

Earthdata Search customization tools diagram.

Panoply

Files in HDF and NetCDF format can be viewed in NASA Panoply, a cross-platform application that plots geo-referenced and other arrays. Panoply offers additional functionality, such as slicing and plotting arrays, combining arrays, and exporting plots and animations.

Giovanni

Giovanni is an online environment for the display and analysis of geophysical parameters. There are a few options for analysis.

  1. Time-averaged maps are a simple way to observe the variability of data values over a region of interest.
  2. Map animations are a means to observe spatial patterns and detect unusual events over time.
  3. Area-averaged time series are used to display the value of a data variable that has been averaged from all the data values acquired for a selected region for each time step.
  4. Histogram plots are used to display the distribution of values of a data variable in a selected region and time interval.

For more detailed tutorials:

  • Giovanni How-To’s on NASA's Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center (GES DISC) YouTube channel
  • Data recipe for downloading a Giovanni map in NetCDF format and converting to quantified map data in the form of lat-lon-data value ASCII text.

Worldview

NASA’s Worldview data visualization application provides the capability to interactively browse over 1,000 global, full-resolution satellite imagery layers and then download the underlying data. Many imagery layers are updated within three hours of a satellite observation, essentially showing Earth as it looks “right now.” This supports time-critical application areas such as wildfire management, air quality measurements, and flood monitoring. Imagery in Worldview is provided by NASA’s Global Imagery Browse Services (GIBS). Worldview also includes geostationary imagery layers from the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-East, GOES-West, and Himawari-8 satellites that are available at 10-minute increments for the last 30 days. These layers include Red Visible, which can be used for analyzing daytime clouds, fog, insolation, and winds; Clean Infrared, which provides cloud top temperature and information about precipitation; and Air Mass RGB, which enables the visualization of the differentiation between air mass types (e.g., dry air, moist air, etc.). These full disk hemispheric views allow for almost real-time viewing of changes occurring around most of the world.

View current natural hazards and events using the Events tab, which provides a list of recent natural events including wildfires, tropical storms, and volcanic eruptions.

Worldview's Events tab provides information about events, such as tropical cyclones, wildfires, volcanic eruptions, and even large iceberg movement. Hurricane Barry, as shown in this image, traveled from the Gulf into Louisiana in July 2019.

Worldview's Events tab provides information about events, such as tropical cyclones, wildfires, volcanic eruptions, and even large iceberg movement. Hurricane Barry, as shown in this image, traveled from the Gulf into Louisiana in July 2019.

Animate the imagery over time. Do a screen by screen comparison of data for different time periods or a comparison of different datasets.

Hurricane Maria was a category 5 storm that devastated numerous places, most notably Puerto Rico, in September 2017. In the Woldview comparison, selecting a date pre-storm and then one post-storm shows the nighttime lights over the island, and how the storm affected electricity, even months after.

Hurricane Maria was a category 5 storm that devastated numerous places, most notably Puerto Rico, in September 2017. In the Woldview comparison, selecting a date pre-storm and then one post-storm shows the nighttime lights over the island, and how the storm affected electricity, even months after.

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If you are interested in receiving expert advice about the data, tools, and applications mentioned in this Data Pathfinder, visit the Earthdata Forum. The Earthdata Forum is a central location where subject matter experts from several NASA DAACs are available to discuss general questions, research needs, and data applications.

Published August 12, 2019

Page Last Updated: May 3, 2022 at 1:20 PM EDT