Tech & Science

NASA Satellite Data Offers Real Time Info on Air Quality

U.S Forest Service can now include real-time data from NASA satellites into their hourly air quality forecasts

Dallas, TX, United States, 05/25/2022 / Top Wire News /

The U.S Forest Service now has a powerful tool at their disposal to monitor near-real-time fire detection from NASA satellite data that they can include in their hourly air quality forecasts. A NASA-supported project has created a new, experimental tool that incorporates near real-time fire detection data from NASA satellites into hourly estimates of emissions thus allowing the Forest Service to better track fire smoke as it billows into surrounding communities.

This system was used for the first time in summer 2020 when large fires in California blanketed huge swaths of state into smoke for days. The technique is now being refined as a way to monitor smoke. As exceptional drought has gripped the western United States this summer, another active fire season is already underway.

Susan O’Neill along with her team developed the data tool as part of NASA’s 2017 California Wildfires Tiger Team, an initiative within the Health and Air Quality Applied Sciences Team (HAQAST) of NASA’s Earth Applied Sciences Program.

Leland Tarnay, an ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Remote Sensing Lab says that “When I was first shown this tool my head kind of exploded. It’s amazing,”. Tarnay used the data from the tool during the 2020 California Creek Fire and says that having five-minute updates on a fire’s position was a massive improvement over some earlier methods that relied on the previous day’s fire activity.

Smoke from fires has dangerous effects on public health and air quality, and as such understanding, its reach can help inform local decisions. Tarnay further adds that “When the smoke impacts from the Creek Fire were at their peak, a single day’s growth was managing to produce 5,000 or more tons of (PM2.5) pollution. Park officials came to us and asked, ‘Will these smoke impacts continue?’ We’d almost never seen those levels – we gave them our forecast that it would likely get to hazardous levels again and stay there for days.”

Tarnay is one of the many Air Resource Advisors (ARA) deployed by the Interagency Wildland Fire Air Quality Response Program. Air Resource Advisors are technical specialists available to incident management teams and agency administrators. ARAs are specifically trained for deployment to incidents to analyze and communicate impacts like these to fire response teams, air quality regulators, and the public.

Tarnay said that it was previously a huge lift for ARAs to assess emissions for multiple simultaneous individual fires. He further added, “That’s where this tool is such an opportunity to really streamline those efforts.”

O’Neill the creator of the tool says that “Models would often predict fires to be most active between 2-5 p.m., the hottest part of the day, but not every fire follows that model – sometimes, they can have a big overnight run that doesn’t match what a model might typically predict.”

Researchers can now see such unexpected changes using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-16 (GOES-16).

Source: NASA Smoke Signals for Air Quality


This content is published on behalf of the above source. Please contact them directly for any concern related to the above.

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