New Technique, Models See Ozone Events Forming

Detecting pollution, like catching criminals, requires evidence and witnesses; but on the scale of countries, continents and oceans, having enough detectors is easier said than done.

A team of air quality modelers, climatologists and air policy specialists at Arizona State University (ASU) may soon change that. They have developed a new way to close the gaps in the global pollution dragnet by using National Aeronautics and Space Administration satellite data to detect precursors to ozone pollution, also known as smog.

The technique, devised with the aid of health specialists from the University of California at Berkeley, uses satellite data to improve ASU's existing computer models of ozone events --filling in the blanks while expanding coverage to much larger areas.

"The satellite data provides information about remote locations," said Rick Van Schoik, director of ASU's North American Center for Transborder Studies. "It gives us data from oceans and about events from other countries with less advanced monitoring capabilities, such as Mexico."

This new satellite-assisted model could allow researchers to see an ozone plume forming and work with communities to head off health effects in advance, the reserarchers said.

"Before, if there were precursors of an ozone event, we couldn't see them -- we just got hit by the pollution," Van Schoik said. "Now, we can watch the event build."

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