NASA’s “DISCOVER-AQ” 2nd Tour is Over

February 24th, 2013 at 9:19 am by under News, Weather

Air Quality is vital to our everyday and long term health. Over the years, scientists have been able to develop satellites that observe the composition of the air in the upper levels of the atmosphere. The problem is, we don’t live there. We live here on the ground, so in 2011 NASA started DISCOVER-AQ (Deriving Information on Surface conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality.)  This program’s headquarters is right here in our backyard at NASA Langley Center in Hampton, VA.  For the missions NASA used a P-3B to measure the air quality.

P-3B, Credit: NASA

2011 Flight Path, Credit: NASA

The P3-B flies in a circular pattern to measure the air quality. It flies at various levels from 10,000 ft to as low as 1,000 ft off of the ground. The path took it from the NW corner of D.C. to Baltimore.  This year the mission continued its 2nd tour in California.

A View from the P-3B, Credit: NASA

Fresno, CA Haze, Credit: NASA

There are several instruments on board the aircraft, but ground instruments are also used such as PANDORA. That instrument can measure different levels of substances in the lower levels of the atmosphere.

Scientists on the mission discovered that some of the pollution would be trapped in the lowest levels that they measured. The pollution (or areosols) can’t really be measured by satellites because they have trouble distinguishing what they are looking at. DISCOVER-AQ’s data from this recent mission is going to be available soon. So we can better learn what is only a few hundred feet above us in the air.

This was the second stop of the 5-year, $30 million mission to measure air quality. The research will be used to develop better satellites to measure the air we breathe.

To see even more about the mission visit their website: http://discover-aq.larc.nasa.gov/

Meteorologist Jeff Edmondson

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