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Global Air Quality Press Conference, AGU 2015

Air pollution’s rise and fall is a hallmark of industrialization, economic activity, and even civil unrest – and it can have far reaching effects on human health and the environment. Now, NASA has produced the first high-resolution global map of air quality. In this briefing, scientists will discuss the evolving human impact.

Human Fingerprint on Global Air Quality

This video provides an overview of the study findings.  For more information, read the full story on  To download a copy, please visit the release on the NASA GSFC Scientific and Visualization Studio website.  Click here to read a transcript of the video.

November 30, 2015: Beijing Air Quality Index (AQI) Reaches 611

Beijing's AQI reached an incredible level of 611.  Levels above 500 are simply referred to as being "beyond scale".

A Tale of Three Cities: Beijing, Los Angeles and Atlanta

In February 2015, Bryan Duncan (NASA scientist) gave a Ted-style talk on air quality as seen from space.  You can also view the video on the main NASA website.

Image of Air Pollution in Pittsburgh

Hell with the Lid Taken Off

During the first half of the twentieth century, coal burning at power plants, factories, and homes filled the air over the Midwestern U.S. with pollution. “Smoke”—as air pollution was usually called—used to occasionally block so much sunlight that people were forced to carry lamps in the middle of the day.

Image showing Air Quality in the Ohio Valley, 2005. Image showing Air Quality in the Ohio Valley, 2011.

Before and After: Ohio Valley 2005-2011

The impact of technology to reduce emissions of nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide from coal-fired power plants is apparent in satellite imagery, which shows the signal of pollution blink out over time. Still, while air quality is improving, power plant emissions of carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas – remain an issue.

Northeast Air Quality, 2005. Northeast Air Quality, 2011.

Before and After: US East Coast 2005-2011

Pollution builds up along the U.S. East Coast as it passes from one city to the next, particularly in the Northeast Corridor. These cities include Richmond, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, Boston and all the smaller cities in between. Some of the largest absolute changes in nitrogen dioxide have occurred in this corridor.

US Air Quality Improvements, 2005-2011

United States Air Quality Improvement, 2005-2011

Nitrogen dioxide pollution, averaged yearly from 2005-2011, has decreased across the United States.
Image Credit: NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio/T. Schindler.

Air pollution: Are Indian cities better off than the West?

A NASA study finds low levels of a major pollutant over Indian cities. But the window of opportunity is closing fast (Hindustan times/livemint). 

Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, at NASA GSFC.

Pollution over Europe, 2002.

Indian cities less NO2 polluted than other major global counterparts

NASA scientists have used satellite observations to measure air pollution's dependence on population in four of the planet's major air pollution regions: the United States, Europe, China and India.

Image Credit:  the SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and ORBIMAGE.

Pollution over China, 2011.

Study of Urban Population and Air Pollution Uncovers Regional Discrepancies

Through the help of satellite observations, NASA scientists have released the first-ever study to examine just how much more air pollution people living in large cities are exposed to compared to those living in less populous areas.

Image Credit:  NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC.

ChemMatters: how NASA Keeps Tabs on Air Pollution in Space

What flies around the world 14 times a day and can detect global air pollution levels from space? It's NASA's Aura satellite, whose mission is to understand the changing chemistry of the Earth's atmosphere. This remarkable satellite can measure air quality across the entire planet in just 24 hours.  Watch the video here or find out more on

Air Pollution Map, 2013.

NASA Ozone Study May Benefit Air Standards, Climate

A new NASA-led study finds that when it comes to combating global warming caused by emissions of ozone-forming chemicals, location matters.

Image Credit: NASA-JPL/Caltech/CU-Boulder.

Sulfur Dioxide in the Ohio River Valley, 2010.

Sharp Decline in Pollution from U.S. Coal Power Plants

A team of scientists have used the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA's Aura satellite to confirm major reductions in the levels of a key air pollutant generated by coal power plants in the eastern United States. The pollutant, sulfur dioxide, contributes to the formation of acid rain and can cause serious health problems.

Image Credit: Jesse Allen, NASA Earth Observatory.