Update: NASA and South Korea join forces to crack down on air pollution

Photo courtesy of Pattaya Mail

South Korea’s National Institute of Environmental Research (NIER) and NASA have embarked on a mission to unravel the secrets of winter air pollution across Asia, including Thailand.

Announced by the South Korean Ministry of Environment, this joint research initiative kicked off in South Korea and will span through Malaysia and Thailand, culminating on March 25.

This year’s study, conducted from February to March, aims to delve into the factors contributing to escalated air pollution levels during the winter season, marking a departure from the previous investigation conducted between May and June 2016. The anticipated findings from this comprehensive research will be disseminated through detailed reports, serving both academic and policy-making purposes.

The collaboration entails the Korean research team lending support to NASA’s endeavours in Asia, with a dedicated research station established in Chiang Mai province to scrutinise the causes and impacts of smog occurrences in winter. Additionally, a remote observatory stationed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, will evaluate the efficacy of the Geostationary Environment Monitoring Spectrometer, a satellite launched by Korea in 2020 for monitoring air quality across 20 Asian nations.

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Commencing in the Philippines in early February, the air quality research will progress through various phases in South Korea, Malaysia, and Thailand. This year’s ASIA-AQ (Airborne and Satellite Investigation of Asian Air Quality) project significantly broadens the scope of the 2016 Korea-United States Air Quality study, encompassing more Asian countries and engaging over 500 participants from 45 teams, including research institutes, governmental organisations, and experts, reported Pattaya Mail.

In addition to satellite data, the study will harness four Korean research aircraft, NASA’s aircraft, ground observation stations, and air quality modelling to conduct a comprehensive analysis of air quality in Korea.

ORIGINAL STORY: NASA’s air pollution blitz: Ambitious mission to clear the skies

In a move to tackle the global scourge of air pollution, NASA launched a series of missions aimed at revolutionising the way we forecast and combat this deadly threat.

With millions of lives hanging in the balance each year due to air pollution-related illnesses, the need for accurate identification and tracking of pollutants has never been more pressing.

Kicking off this revolutionary campaign in the Philippines, NASA’s state-of-the-art DC-8 aircraft takes to the skies, braving perilous altitudes as low as 15 metres (50 feet) from the ground to gather vital data on airborne particles.

NASA’s Barry Lefer explained how this is done during a press briefing at Clark International Airport, situated approximately 80 kilometres north of Manila.

“We can provide direct measurements of how much pollution is coming from different sources. And that’s one of the primary inputs to the air quality forecasting models.”

While ground stations and satellites play crucial roles in monitoring air quality, they have limitations in discerning the intricate behaviour of pollutants in the atmosphere. Enter the DC-8, equipped with cutting-edge technology to bridge this gap, enhancing the accuracy of forecasting models and enabling more effective public warning systems.

Maria Antonia Loyzaga, secretary of the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources, emphasised the importance of integrating data from air, space, and ground sources for informed decision-making in public health, industrial compliance, and environmental conservation.

Pollution hotspots

Loaded with an array of highly sensitive instruments, NASA’s flying laboratory embarked on intensive flights over densely populated areas, including the Philippine capital region, charting a course to uncover pollution hotspots and patterns.

Accompanying the DC-8 is a nimble NASA Gulfstream jet, equipped to create intricate three-dimensional maps of airborne pollutants, providing invaluable insights for policymakers and researchers.

As the mission unfolds, the aircraft will traverse South Korea, Malaysia, and Thailand in the coming weeks, pooling data to enrich our understanding of air quality dynamics in the region. The findings, slated for public release within a year, promise to inform crucial policy decisions and drive concerted efforts to combat air pollution, reported Thai PBS World.

Dubbed ASIA-AQ, this collaborative endeavour between NASA and regional governments aims to confront the stark reality of high air pollution-related mortality rates in the region head-on.

Speaking at the press briefing, Manila Observatory scientist Maria Cambaliza underscored the gravity of the situation, revealing that a staggering one-third of global air pollution-related deaths occur in Asia, with the Philippines bearing a heavy burden of 100 such deaths per 100,000 people.

Environment NewsThailand News

Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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