Air pollution is a significant threat to human health and our environment. Instruments on NASA satellites, along with airborne and ground-based sensors, are constantly collecting data on major pollutants in our atmosphere.
Where Does NASA Fit?
According to the World Health Organization, air pollution contributes to millions of premature deaths around the world each year. Pollution also dirties our skylines and harms animal and plant life. NASA instruments — on satellites, planes, and the ground — constantly collect data on major pollutants. NASA-funded scientists track the sources and concentrations of these pollutants and their movement through the atmosphere. They provide managers and policymakers with Earth observations that can inform air quality standards, public policies, and government regulations for economic and human welfare.
Aerosols! These tiny particles, generated by everything from desert dust storms to car exhaust, play a huge role in our atmosphere, affecting our health when we breathe them in and even changing the weather.
NASA and NOAA, among other agencies, worked together during the summer through the STAQS and AEROMMA missions to calibrate and validate NASA’s new TEMPO satellite. The satellite and missions combined aim to not only better measure air quality, and the major pollutants that impact it, but also to improve air quality, from street to stratosphere. This effort was documented during the August 2023 campaign leg, which took place over the Chicago region.
NASA's Tropospheric Emissions Monitoring Pollution (TEMPO) mission is a partnership with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics to observe North America's air quality. Watch to learn what air quality is and why it's important we study it!
NASA engineers and scientists are testing new ways to study air quality from planes and satellites.
TEMPO, or Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution, is the first space-based instrument to continuously measure air quality above North America with the resolution of a few square miles. It is a collaboration between NASA and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO).
NASA Shares First Images from US Pollution-Monitoring Instrument
On August 24, NASA released the first data maps from its new instrument launched to space earlier this year, which now is successfully transmitting information.
Recent Science Results about air quality and pollution
How Dust Affects the World’s Health
NASA research finds that a combination of windblown dust and human-caused particle pollution was associated with nearly 3 million premature deaths in 2019.
Nitrogen Dioxide in the Neighborhood
A team of scientists mapped nitrogen dioxide in California’s air at the neighborhood scale and found hotspots of the air pollutant near high-rise buildings and food processing facilities.
Clearer View of Great Lakes Air Quality
Scientists and regulators are using satellite data and custom models from NASA to help monitor ozone pollution.
Fuel Regulation Reduced Air Pollution from Shipping
A global standard limiting sulfur in ship fuel reduced artificial “ship track” clouds to record-low levels in 2020. Pandemic-related disruptions played a secondary role.
A Global Decline in Carbon Monoxide
The widespread adoption of cleaner-burning technologies and declines in fire activity over the past two decades has drawn down global levels of the pollutant.
Air Quality Imagery and Animations
Stories and images about air quality from NASA's Earth Observatory.
Scientific Visualization Studio
Animations and videos explaining NASA's activities in air quality research and applications.
Earth Science Data
Air Quality Data Pathfinder
Poor air quality is one of the largest global environmental and health threats. Instruments aboard NASA satellite and airborne platforms continually acquire data about these pollutants. Use this Data Pathfinder to guide you through the process of selecting and using datasets applicable to air quality.
NASA promotes health and air quality around the world
The Health and Air Quality program area provides policymakers with Earth observations to enhance decision-making about public health, with a special focus on environmental health and infectious diseaes.