NASA Satellite Tracks Movement of Pollution from East Asia to North America

NASA pollution

Image courtesy of NASA

It turns out our Chinese imports aren't limited to just cheaper goods - pollution accounts for a fairly hefty slice. In fact, that pollution may be equivalent to a not trivial 15% of local emissions in Canada and the U.S. This is but one of the stunning findings of a new study done by NASA scientists looking at the amount of pollution that makes its way to western North America from China every year. These pollutants, which have doubled over the last two decades, consist primarily of aerosols.Large aerosol clusters appear as brown blots on the included image, with darker ones accounting for heavier concentrations; the red points in East Asia correspond with large forest fires, which emit vast amounts of aerosols into the atmosphere, and the black areas account for human populations. According to the scientists, the red, or fire, points are directly related to the aerosol patches appearing over China.

Led by Hongbin Yu, a research scientist at the University of Maryland, the NASA researchers used satellite imaging - the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) device on the Terra satellite - to study the atmospheric particles, which are blown over the Pacific Ocean from China by rapid airstreams, over a four-year period.

Yu's study is the first such to estimate pollution aerosol transport from East Asia to North America; the equivalent of 18 teragrams, close to 40 billion pounds, of aerosol was blown over the northwestern Pacific Ocean, 4.5 teragrams, roughly 10 billion pounds, of which made its way to Canada and the U.S. from 2002 to 2005. As Yu is quick to point out, however, this is but one of several sources of aerosols that makes its way to North America - pollution also flows in from Europe and other parts of Asia and North America.

Via ::NASA: NASA Satellite Measures Pollution From East Asia to North America (news website)

See also: ::A Picture is Worth... Air Pollution in China, ::Dutch Scientists Create European Pollution Map

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