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Health, Science & Environment

NASA and NOAA launch campaign to investigate shifting air pollution at Wright Patterson

Officials stand in front of the NASA DC-8 research aircraft in a hangar at Wright Patterson Air Force Base
Chris Welter
/
WYSO
Officials stand in front of the NASA DC-8 research aircraft in a hangar at Wright Patterson Air Force Base

Officials from NASA and NOAA said a new coordinated research campaign will investigate how air pollution sources have shifted over recent decades.

Using satellites, research aircraft, vehicles and backpacks — government scientists will now continuously measure air pollution data from sources like vehicle exhaust, industrial facilities, agriculture, wildfires, and consumer products such as paint, pesticides and perfumes.

They want to better understand why pollutants like ground-level ozone and fine particulates have decreased only modestly in recent years, according to the EPA.

David Fahey from NOAA said one of the aircraft, the NASA DC-8 Airborne Science Laboratory, they will use for the research is housed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. That's why they announced the campaign there on Thursday.

“We record 185 molecules every second or so as we're flying and 500 or more aerosol small particle parameters,” Fahey said. “It's mind boggling how much information comes out of this platform.”

Current NOAA data suggests that air pollution results in more than one hundred thousand premature deaths and one trillion dollars in economic damages every year in the United States.

Barry Lefer from NASA said he hopes the campaign will also help scientists get better data.

"We're seeing the health benefits of reducing air pollution, but we still have some work to do, and by working with NOAA and the EPA, NASA is committed to help find some of these solutions," Lefer said.

Chris Welter is the Managing Editor at The Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.

Chris got his start in radio in 2017 when he completed a six-month training at the Center for Community Voices. Most recently, he worked as a substitute host and the Environment Reporter at WYSO.