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Satellite data reveal seasonal pollution changes over India
Date:9/8/2010

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. Armed with a decade's worth of satellite data, University of Illinois atmospheric scientists have documented some surprising trends in aerosol pollution concentration, distribution and composition over the Indian subcontinent.

In addition to environmental impact, aerosol pollution, or tiny particles suspended in the air, can be detrimental to human health by causing a range of respiratory problems. Aerosols can come from natural sources, such as dust and pollen carried on the wind, but the most hazardous aerosols are generated by human activity soot and other hydrocarbons released from burning various fuels, for example.

"The man-made aerosols tend to have a nastier effect on human health," said Larry Di Girolamo, a professor of atmospheric sciences at U. of I. "Once we have a handle on how much, and the factors that influence the amount of aerosols that can build up, we can propose emission regulations."

Aerosol pollution levels can be measured on the ground, but only the most developed countries have widespread sensor data. Standard satellite imaging cannot measure aerosols over land, so Di Girolamo worked with NASA to develop the Multi-angle Imaging Spectro-Radiometer (MISR).

Launched onboard NASA's Terra satellite platform in 1999, MISR's unique multi-view design allows researchers to differentiate surface variability from the atmosphere so they can observe and quantitatively measure particles in the air.

"Ten years later, we are mapping the globe in terms of particle properties," Di Girolamo said. "We've gone beyond just the amount of aerosols. We also can tell what kind of particles they are how much is dust, how much is manmade."

Di Girolamo and postdoctoral scientist Sagnik Dey recently published a 10-year comprehensive analysis of MISR data of aerosol pollution over the Indian subcontinent in the Journal of Geophysical Research. The densely populated region lacks on-the-ground
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Contact: Liz Ahlberg
eahlberg@illinois.edu
217-244-1073
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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