Air quality: Take a deep breath


The atmosphere, crucial for life on earth It makes our planet habitable However, air pollution has become a serious problem Human activities are altering our atmosphere at an unprecedented scale This has an impact on air quality and is affecting people’s health all around the globe Studies even show that in the urbanised regions of Europe 90% of the population is exposed to harmful
levels of air pollution According to the world health organization adverse air quality is responsible for seven million premature
deaths on a global scale In Europe the European environmental agency estimates to 400 000 to 500 000 premature
premature deaths occurring so this is a real problem Air quality affects our health in many ways from causing heart and respiratory disease to exacerbating asthma and even impacting
cognitive abilities Recent studies have also shown that even relatively low levels of air pollution can affect people’s health In order to better understand this problem
and find solutions scientists need reliable data on where and how the air is being polluted
and how it spreads This can be done locally by taking in-situ measurements but with satellite data this can be achieved at a larger scale across regions and countries thus tracking pollution as it is spread by the wind Over the last two decades the European Space Agency launched a number of satellites that observe our atmosphere and measure air pollutants ESA is involved in air quality measurements by providing space measurements satellites that have the capability to measure air pollution trace gasses We started with this during 1995 by putting GOME in space This instrumentation this capability has then been improved step by step with follow-on instruments like Sciamachy GOME II or OMI and now with the Copernicus mission
Sentinel-5Percursor we have global coverage within one day and this allows for the first time to use these space-based measurements to be implemented in operational services for air quality monitoring but also for forecasting The Copernicus programme with its Sentinel satellites has bridged the gap between research and operational
services Using both satellite and in-situ measurements the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Services provides information about air composition and quality across the globe At the European level it is almost like a
weather forecast This information is picked-up by media and smartphones applications warning the public on poor air quality in their region With Copernicus Sentinel-5P launched in 2017 which carries a novel instrument called Tropomi a big step was taken to observe sources of air pollution Now pollution hotspots are clearly visible This increased spatial resolution comes from Sentinel-5P’s spectrometer the Tropomi instrument The Tropomi instrument is really a big step forward in what we can do And that is for different reasons I think Maybe the most striking thing when you look at the data is the very good spatial resolution So, it can measure with a ground resolution of about 3,5 by 7 kilometres which is more than a factor of ten better then we can what previous instruments had With its Tropomi instrument Copernicus Sentinel-5P is showing how important it is by delivering operational
data on air quality every day Within the Copernicus programme ESA and EU are already preparing new missions to monitor our atmosphere For example one of the potential future Sentinel missions has been proposed to monitor emissions of
carbon dioxide Our atmosphere is precious but polluting emissions are both responsible for poor air quality as well as adding to the greenhouse effect driving
climate change By monitoring emissions and understanding how they spread we might find solutions to keep our planet breathable and sustainable

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