Friday, September 14, 2012

NASA Helps Air Pollution With a Map From Space

Air pollution has been a problem since the dawn of the industrial era, but until recently scientists did not know with certainty, how dirty was the air in most parts of the world.

The new maps paths using computer models and satellite images are giving, finally, researchers a clearer view of the overall problem of air pollution. These maps illustrate the spread of small particles throughout the world. The problem of these particles is that they are impossible to see in a simple way, but in large quantities, the dust can enter our lungs and reach the bloodstream (causing serious health problems such as asthma and cardiovascular diseases). According to the American Heart Association in the United States they produce about 60,000 deaths a year because of this microscopic dust.

These new maps are not based simply on the satellite images. It should bear in mind that when you look down in the atmosphere, from the perspective of a satellite, comes to be something as well as a look through a glass of dirty water. The only satellite take a picture of what you see at the top. Then, the researchers used computer models to calculate the amount of total matter to be asenta in the air we all breathe.

"Now, with this map and the dataset that represents, epidemiologists can begin to look more closely at how the long term exposure to these particles in little-studied parts of the world - such as the cities of rapid growth of Asia or areas in North Africa with large amounts of dust in the air - impact on human health." NASA writes on its website.

Until now, developing countries had not had the right tools to measure the levels of air pollution. New information can also be useful in some parts of the United States or Western Europe. At present, the quality of the air is measured with a small number of surface monitors. NASA hopes that the maps will be a good first step to help better understand the dynamics of particles in the air and its impact on our health.

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