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Satellite Image Reveals Massive Reduction of Air Pollution in US

Air pollution is still a problem, especially worldwide, but these images show things have recently improved in the US.

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From this clear animated satellite image, you can see that much less nitrogen dioxide in the air is identified over the United States than a decade ago. Such images were made based on data collected by the Ozone Monitoring Instrument on NASA’s Aura satellite. Viewing the images, you can easily find the remarkable reduction of nitrogen dioxide from 2005 to 2011.

According to the EPA, nitrogen dioxide is the main cause of respiratory problems. In addition, when it reacts with ammonia, moisture, and other compounds, they would be formed into small particles, or particulates, which in turn worsen emphysema as well as other kinds of lung illness.

Nitrogen dioxide is also attributed to the formation of ozone, which is generally regarded as an irritant and pollutant at ground level. It is hoped that if we would like to improve in air quality, we should do something to enhance the fuel efficiency in our vehicles. At the same time, the new technology should be explored so as to cut down emissions of nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide from coal-fired power plants.

It is widely recognized that the levels of nitrogen (and sulfur) dioxide started falling began shortly after the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments was enacted, and kept declining afterwards. On the whole, levels of nitrogen dioxide have decreased by more than 50 percent since 2000, as estimated by the EPA.

As NASA atmospheric scientist Bryan Duncan said, although air quality had been improved over the last few decades, there is still a long way to go before it became desirable, because we should do more to deal with ozone and particulate matter, which could pose serious threat to our future life. At present, in the United States, there are still 142 million people who are living in the areas where the unhealthy levels of air pollution are identified.

New York air pollution. There has been a 32 percent decrease in nitrogen dioxide in New York City between the 2005-2007 (left) and 2009-2011 (right) periods. Image credit: NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio/T. Schindler

New York air pollution. There has been a 32 percent decrease in nitrogen dioxide in New York City between the 2005-2007 (left) and 2009-2011 (right) periods. Image credit: NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio/T. Schindler

Source: NASA

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