New Pollution Monitoring: Our Air is Dirtier Than We Thought

Apr 14, 2009 by Miranda Marquit weblog
Air Pollution
Air pollution is worse than we thought. Image credit: U.S. government.

(PhysOrg.comOne of my pet peeves is the focus we have on global warming. While global climate change is important, it continues to provide a red herring of sorts, taking attention away the public health concern that is air pollution. Recent developments in pollution tracking may change things. With help from satellites, scientists are beginning to understand just how dirty our air is becoming.

The idea of combining with ground data has been introduced to measure particulate on the ground. In many areas, the equipment used to measure pollution at ground level is unavailable. However, it is possible to use satellites to track in those areas. According to Discover magazine, Sundar Christopher, a scientist at the University of Alabama, found that it was possible to measure particulate pollution remotely:

"'Remote sensing is the only viable way to monitor global particulate matter,' he says. Using NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites, he and his team examined 20 cities with populations greater than 10 million. In 15 of them, pollution levels were five to ten times higher than the World Health Organization's guidelines."

In order to get an idea of what the ground measurements of pollution are in some of the areas without this capability, the satellites were first trained on areas that had good ground sensing. After getting an idea of what particulate pollution looks like at certain levels, it was possible to compare the images to areas without ground monitoring, getting a good idea of what the pollution levels are in areas without on the ground pollution feedback. In addition to seeing how much pollution there is (and there is more than we thought), the University of Alabama team is going to be tracking the way air pollution moves across the globe.

This is probably a good thing. Having images to show us just how dirty our air is can help us make inroads in terms of pollution as a risk. Global warming is still debatable from a number of different standpoints; even though most climatologists agree that it is real, many people find ways to debate aspects (such as whether people are causing it) are debatable. However, air pollution is not really debatable. We're seeing it -- at ground level and now in the sky -- and we know it causes health problems. Perhaps a visual will encourage us to make a switch to energy sources that are better for the earth. And better for humans as well.

© 2009 PhysOrg.com

Explore further: Five anthropogenic factors that will radically alter northern forests in 50 years

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mexico City air pollution is studied

Mar 03, 2006

Scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and other institutions are in Mexico City this month for a pollution study.

Air pollution may increase risk of appendicitis

Oct 06, 2008

Could there be a link between high levels of air pollution and the risk of appendicitis? New research presented at the 73rd Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology in Orlando, suggests a novel ...

Largest air pollution study is released

Mar 08, 2006

A study published Wednesday suggests fine particulate air pollution spikes increase cardiovascular and respiratory hospitalizations across the United States.

Sydney reports high levels of pollution

Feb 23, 2006

The city of Sydney, Australia, is experiencing a smog-filed summer season as air pollution levels double and officials have issued 14 health warnings.

Recommended for you

More, bigger wildfires burning western US, study shows

13 hours ago

Wildfires across the western United States have been getting bigger and more frequent over the last 30 years – a trend that could continue as climate change causes temperatures to rise and drought to become ...

User comments : 21

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

MrGrynch
3.1 / 5 (10) Apr 14, 2009
Amen.. regardless of the validity (or lack thereof) of the belief that global warming is man-made, that does not change the fact that we need to curb our emissions anyway, to avoid much more tangible problems related to air pollution, as well as soil and water pollution.
kerry
2.9 / 5 (7) Apr 14, 2009
Agreed, as well. You can only do so much to deny global warming. You risk looking like a total dumbass if you try to deny air pollution in general.
mikiwud
3 / 5 (14) Apr 14, 2009
The other day there was an article saying that a large part of warming was caused by the cleaner air in the past few decades. Let's tell it all ways as long as we get paid for it, and it may confuse the sceptics, it sure confuses us as we forget what we said last week. If we cover it from all angles we can look back and say "see, we were right!".
GrayMouser
3 / 5 (10) Apr 14, 2009
If it happens naturally (particulates) is it still pollution? Or is it just a natural, if unwanted, part of the local environment (like pollen)?
zbarlici
3.7 / 5 (7) Apr 14, 2009
naturally occuring particulates is still regarded as pollution, but not much can be done about that... most likely they`ll be looking at obvious man-made particulates..

Oh, and By the way, if there`s heavy smog over large metropolitan/industrial areas, that`s most likely NOT a naturally-occuring phenomena.
freethinking
2.6 / 5 (17) Apr 14, 2009
I've been saying it for years. Global warming is a joke that is stopping us from fixing things that need to be fixed. How much better would the world be if all of the Hot air and time Al Gore spent fighting the air we breath (CO2) instead of cleaning up third world filth from India and China. (No offence meant to China or India, only Al Gore :))
Bitflux
3 / 5 (5) Apr 15, 2009
I admit, im one of the bad guys... I use my car because its convenient, i buy products that makes me happy for a while, that i really wont be using in the long run. I use cosmetics, shampoos and detergents for washing that harms the environment.

The point is.. every human that is born is part of the problem and we accept mediocre solutions... we accept politicians and world leaders that focus on keeping business running.

What if we keep business running for the sake of money... do we then have enough money to leave the planet because its no longer habitable?


It starts with you and I...
laserdaveb
3.3 / 5 (6) Apr 15, 2009
I often wondered when "heat trapped by particulate pollution" changed to "co2" causing global warming...clean up the dirt and plants can do the rest.
Egnite
2.3 / 5 (6) Apr 15, 2009
Yay the day is near when Global Warming Believers and denialists come together to attack the government for blinding us to the real threats like pollution in out air, land and sea. Which our gvments allow corporations to get away with so long as a little tax is paid to cover the inconvienience (but goes nowhere near any cleaning schemes).

Instead the gvmnt are considering purposely polluting our air via chemtrails as a solution to GW, wtf?
Velanarris
4.2 / 5 (5) Apr 15, 2009
The point is.. every human that is born is part of the problem and we accept mediocre solutions... we accept politicians and world leaders that focus on keeping business running.

What if we keep business running for the sake of money... do we then have enough money to leave the planet because its no longer habitable?
It starts with you and I...

We keep businesses running to prevent poverty, joblessness, and a secondary reinforcer malthusian complex from developing.

What if you and all your neighbors were suddenly challenged for every resource you need, heat, shelter, food, etc?

Welcome to a revolution, imagine the ecological fallout of that.
thorn
5 / 5 (3) Apr 15, 2009
We pump huge amounts of pollution in to the atmosphere every year, changing the chemical makeup of the atmosphere. The giant pyramid of smog that hangs over some cities will never be a positive. Now the argument goes like this. We can see the changes we are doing to the atmosphere with our own eyes but we not changing the atmosphere because humans are to puny. We might be but our tech and our machines are not. I guess in fifty years when the half dozen or so males born that year on the planet are born sterile, people will know than they won't have to worry about the pesky little things like the species much longer.
lengould100
2 / 5 (2) Apr 15, 2009
The point is.. every human that is born is part of the problem and we accept mediocre solutions... we accept politicians and world leaders that focus on keeping business running.







What if we keep business running for the sake of money... do we then have enough money to leave the planet because its no longer habitable?



It starts with you and I...







We keep businesses running to prevent poverty, joblessness, and a secondary reinforcer malthusian complex from developing.



What if all the resources required for a good life could be provided without every one of us needing to spend 2000 hr's / yr at a jobsite? Say 1000 hrs / yr were enough? Wouldn't the PTB still simply invent work for us just to keep us "busy and stupid"?

Velanarris
3.5 / 5 (2) Apr 15, 2009
What if all the resources required for a good life could be provided without every one of us needing to spend 2000 hr's / yr at a jobsite? Say 1000 hrs / yr were enough? Wouldn't the PTB still simply invent work for us just to keep us "busy and stupid"?
If we didn't have resource contention then we wouldn't have war, famine, poverty, or a need for war, famine, or poverty.

It's nice to pontificate on Utopia. Unfortunately, there's no path leading there at this point in time. We're too wrapped up in ideologies and disbursal methods that are unsustainable.
paul_fred
5 / 5 (2) Apr 15, 2009
Does it bother anyone else to see pictures of stacks spewing copious amounts of steam at the leadin for articles on pollution?
GrayMouser
3 / 5 (6) Apr 15, 2009
What if all the resources required for a good life could be provided without every one of us needing to spend 2000 hr's / yr at a jobsite? Say 1000 hrs / yr were enough? Wouldn't the PTB still simply invent work for us just to keep us "busy and stupid"?

At the end of WWII and in to the early 50's it was thought, from projections (the equivalent of today's computer models), that the average consumer would only need to work 10 to 20 hours a week to maintain a middle-class existence. Instead it's more common to see double-income-no-kids in order to maintain a middle-class lifestyle...

There's a lesson in there somewhere.
ken_mcclelland
3 / 5 (1) Apr 15, 2009
EnviroResolutions, Inc. (ENVI) owns the worldwide exclusive rights to design, manufacture and market a patented %u201CENVI-clean%u2122%u201D Scrubber that provides a significant advancement in performance and cost-effectiveness for the treatment of industrial and commercial pollution. http://www.enviro...ions.com
Bitflux
4.3 / 5 (3) Apr 16, 2009
The point is.. every human that is born is part of the problem and we accept mediocre solutions... we accept politicians and world leaders that focus on keeping business running.



What if we keep business running for the sake of money... do we then have enough money to leave the planet because its no longer habitable?

It starts with you and I...



We keep businesses running to prevent poverty, joblessness, and a secondary reinforcer malthusian complex from developing.



What if you and all your neighbors were suddenly challenged for every resource you need, heat, shelter, food, etc?



Welcome to a revolution, imagine the ecological fallout of that.


We ARE allready challenged. Animals are being born with two sexes, deserts are spreading, people in the industrialized countries have big problems getting pregnant because of all the parabenes and Phtalates in products they buy.. it goes on and on.

I do not believe that if we continue to travel that road we will eventually reach heaven/nirvana e.t.c.

Scarcity is a myth, its how we use the raw materials thats important. In the pacific ocean, there is a huge island of floating plastic - a complete and utter waste, which could be recycled.

Nartoon
2.5 / 5 (2) Apr 18, 2009
WTF... someplaces air particulates increase AGW by trapping heat; while in other areas the lack of air particulates allows the Sun to shine through causing AGW
Nartoon
2 / 5 (4) Apr 18, 2009
"The research team used supercomputer simulations"

and which computer models do they use to make sure their inputs are correct? If not, garbage in = garbage out!
Nartoon
2 / 5 (4) Apr 19, 2009
could, may, might, if...
blah, blah, blah
Velanarris
5 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2009
We ARE allready challenged. Animals are being born with two sexes, deserts are spreading, people in the industrialized countries have big problems getting pregnant because of all the parabenes and Phtalates in products they buy.. it goes on and on.
Are you referring to deer, antelopes, or any of the other similar organisms? If so, it's actually rather common to see them born with both sexes. Please clarify which animals you're referring to.

As for people in industrial countries having difficulty reproducing, I really don't see this as an issue. I see fertility treatments as an issue.
Scarcity is a myth, its how we use the raw materials thats important. In the pacific ocean, there is a huge island of floating plastic - a complete and utter waste, which could be recycled.

This massive island of plastics, I keep hearing about it, yet no one wants to do anything about it. If all the plastics end up in one area, you'd probably make a good amount of money, and now-a-days, catch some big government funding to clean it up and recycle it. Raw plastics are worth a decent amount of change.

Other than that, you're right, scarcity is a myth. Problem is, the people who need it don't have it, and the people that have it, well, we're not giving it away for free.

Look at your average warring countries, typically very poor, like most African nations, or lacking any sort of resource control. Meaning, they don't have the resources, or the means of disbursal.

More news stories

Six Nepalese dead, six missing in Everest avalanche

At least six Nepalese climbing guides have been killed and six others are missing after an avalanche struck Mount Everest early Friday in one of the deadliest accidents on the world's highest peak, officials ...

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

There's something ancient in the icebox

Glaciers are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything—vegetation, soil, and even the top layer of bedrock. So scientists were greatly surprised ...

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...