The first global map of ammonia emissions measured from space

Jun 24, 2009
Distribution of ammonia in 2008, measured using the IASI instrument on board the /MetOp satellite, superimposed on an image of Europe obtained on August 30, 2008 by MODIS. Yellow to red colors indicate regions with high ammonia concentrations. The white structures are clouds. © Image MODIS © L. Gonzalez/C. Deroo LOA; Image IASI © ULB & INSU-CNRS

(PhysOrg.com) -- The first complete map of global ammonia emissions has recently been achieved using to satellite data. It reveals an underestimation of some of the ammonia concentrations detected by current inventories, and identifies new hotspots.

This work, carried out by a team from LATMOS-IPSL (France) in collaboration with Belgian researchers from the Université Libre de Bruxelles, was facilitated by the infrared measurements of the French IASI instrument, part of the MetOp meteorological satellite developed by CNES. These results were published online in Nature Geoscience on 21 June 2009.

(NH3) contributes significantly to the formation of the particles that give rise to pollution episodes. It mainly emanates from the use of agricultural fertilizers and increasingly intensified livestock breeding practices. Ammonia is the least well-understood pollutant regulated by European Directives on air quality. Mapping of its emissions are imprecise and systematic global monitoring of this compound is difficult. Once emitted, ammonia only remains in the atmosphere for a short period but triggers a cascade of environmental effects. At a local level, high ammonia concentrations affect fauna, flora and air quality.

Although the IASI instrument (part of the MetOp meteorological satellite) was not initially intended to detect ammonia in the Earth's atmosphere, researchers developed a methodology that could isolate the signature of ammonia from its background signal. By filtering the data and accumulating them continuously over a one-year observation period (more than a million measurements per day, with two passes over each part of the globe), the scientists were able to generate maps of its concentrations and to compare them with recent atmospheric models.

This work has demonstrated an underestimation of the ammonia emissions supplied by current inventories in agricultural valleys of the northern hemisphere, and particularly in the USA (the regions of San Joaquin in California and Snake River Valley in Idaho) and Europe (the Po and Ebre valleys). The most marked differences were found in Central Asia, with the identification of some sources not mentioned in current inventories.

More information: Global ammonia distribution derived from infrared satellite observations, Lieven Clarisse, Cathy Clerbaux, Frank Dentener, Daniel Hurtmans, Pierre-François Coheur, Nature Geoscience, online 21 June 2009.

Provided by CNRS

Explore further: TRMM Satellite calculates Hurricanes Fay and Gonzalo rainfall

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Seabird ammonia emissions contribute to atmospheric acidity

Sep 23, 2008

Ammonia emissions from seabirds have been shown to be a significant source of nitrogen in remote coastal ecosystems, contributing to nutrient enrichment (eutrophication) and acidification in ecosystems. While most ammonia ...

Researchers study harmful particulates

Feb 26, 2007

Reducing barnyard emissions is one way to help reduce the harmful effects of tiny atmospheric air particles that can cause severe asthma in children, and lung cancer and heart attacks in some adults.

Researchers 'sniff out' emissions from feedyards

Mar 07, 2007

Setting up an air quality trailer in the midst of cattle pens at a feedlot will help measure gaseous emissions, said a Texas Agricultural Experiment Station researcher. Dr. Ken Casey, Experiment Station air quality engineer ...

Something fishy in human blood could save lives

Mar 30, 2007

Thousands of people with liver and kidney disease die every year from too much ammonia in their blood, and scientists from the United States and Japan have found a possible solution. In the April 2007 issue of The FASEB Journal ...

Recommended for you

Tropical Depression 9 forms in Gulf of Mexico

6 hours ago

Tropical Depression Nine formed over the western Bay of Campeche, Gulf of Mexico and is forecast to make a quick landfall on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. NOAA's GOES-East Satellite captured the birth of the ...

$58 million effort to study potential new energy source

11 hours ago

A research team led by The University of Texas at Austin has been awarded approximately $58 million to analyze deposits of frozen methane under the Gulf of Mexico that hold enormous potential to increase ...

And now, the volcano forecast

13 hours ago

Scientists are using volcanic gases to understand how volcanoes work, and as the basis of a hazard-warning forecast system.

User comments : 0