Satellite Images Reveal 39 Unreported Sulfur Dioxide Sources

By on June 16, 2016
sulfur dioxide

NASA, Environment and Climate Change Canada and collaborating scientific universities found 2005-2014 satellite images were capable of showing 39 sulfur dioxide sources that were previously unreported. The unreported sources were largely from the Middle East, Mexico and Russia.

The sources were human in origin, such as smelters, coal-burning power plants and gas or oil operations. Not only were unreported sulfur dioxide sources discovered, the images also showed that officially reported emission levels of some known sulfur dioxide sources were sometimes two or three times lower than levels suggested by the images.

Advances in computer processing and programming led to the recently improved ability to detect and quantify the sulfur dioxide sources in the satellite images studied. Raw satellite data were obtained from the Dutch-Finnish Ozone Monitoring Instrument on NASA’s Aura spacecraft. Scientists also took advantage of a new computer program which allowed them to trace sulfur dioxide particles back to their origins using a data-driven model that was able to incorporate particle dispersion due to wind strength and direction.

Top image: Satellite-based research has detected smaller sulfur dioxide sources around the world. (Credit: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

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