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Monday, 6 June 2016

NASA Scientists finds 39 unreported human-made sources of toxic sulfur dioxide emissions


NASA scientists located 39 unreported and major human-made sources of toxic sulfur dioxide emissions. They used a new satellite-based method to locate the sources of toxic emissions.The study was published in The Nature Geoscience journal on 30 May 2016.NASA scientists of Environment and Climate Change, Canada along with The University of Maryland, College Park, and
Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, contributed to the study.
Highlights of the Study
• The 39 unreported emission sources were found after analyzing data of satellite from 2005 to 2014.• They are clusters of coal-burning power plants, smelters, oil and gas operations found notably in the Middle East, but also in Mexico and parts of Russia.• Along with this the reported emissions from known sources in these regions were in some cases  to to three times lower than satellite-based estimates.• However, the unreported and underreported sources account for about 12 percent of all human-made emissions of sulfur dioxide.• The inventories are used to evaluate regulatory policies for air quality improvements and to anticipate future emission scenarios that may occur with economic and population growth.• But, to develop comprehensive and accurate inventories, industries, government agencies and scientists first must know the location of pollution sources.• The research team also located 75 natural sources of sulfur dioxide like non-erupting volcanoes slowly leaking the toxic gas throughout the year.• It was the first improvement in the computer processing that transforms raw satellite observations from the Dutch-Finnish Ozone Monitoring Instrument aboard NASA's Aura spacecraft into precise estimates of sulfur dioxide concentrations.• A new computer program was used by the research team to more precisely detect SO2 that had been dispersed and diluted by winds.
About Sulfur dioxide (SO2)
• Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is one of six air pollutants that are regulated by the US Environmental Protection Agency. It is hazardous to health and contributes a lot to acid rain.
• At Present, SO2 monitoring activities include the use of emission inventories that are derived from ground-based measurements and factors, such as fuel usage.
• While not necessarily unknown, many volcanoes are in remote locations and not monitored, so this satellite-based data set is the first to provide regular annual information on these passive volcanic emissions.
• Smaller SO2 concentrations were detected including those emitted by human-made sources such as oil-related activities and medium-size power plants.
• Accurate estimates of wind strength and direction were derived from a satellite data-driven model. They were used to trace the pollutant back to the location of the source. It also helped to estimate the quantity of SO2that was emitted from the smoke stack.
About NASA’s study on Earth Sciences
• NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of planet Earth that can improve lives and safeguard the future.
• It develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records.
• The agency freely shares the unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how the Earth is changing.

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