Enhancing Air Pollution Forecasting: NASA's Marathon Research Flights Over Asia

Image depicting NASA's marathon research flights over Asia, aimed at enhancing air pollution forecasting to combat climate change. Learn about global warming and climate change for kids with a simple explanation.
Enhancing Air Pollution Forecasting: NASA's Marathon Research Flights Over Asia. [Source: NASA

NASA has embarked on an ambitious program of research flights spanning across Asia, with the primary goal of refining air pollution forecasting models. The overarching objective of these missions is to gather comprehensive data pertaining to air pollution sources and behavior, aiming to enhance existing warning systems. This initiative assumes critical importance in light of the alarming number of deaths attributed to air pollution annually. By employing advanced airborne technologies and methodologies, NASA seeks to mitigate the detrimental effects of air pollution and pave the way towards a healthier and more sustainable future.

Aircraft and Methodology

  • Utilizing NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory, the largest aircraft dedicated to airborne science missions.
  • Flight Duration: Up to 8 hours, flying as low as 15 meters above ground to collect pollution particles.
  • Focus: Detailed analysis of pollution sources and behavior.


  • Barry Lefer, from NASA, emphasizes the importance of direct measurements in identifying pollution sources.
  • Current reliance on limited ground and satellite data necessitates enhanced methodologies.
  • The DC-8's role in bridging data gaps and improving satellite interpretation for more accurate forecasting models is pivotal.

Research Flights

  • DC-8 conducts figure-eight patterns over densely populated areas of the Philippines, including the capital region.
  • Flight Altitude: As low as 15 meters to ensure detailed pollution data collection.
  • Complementary Approach: A smaller NASA Gulfstream jet creates three-dimensional pollution distribution maps.
  • Future Plans: Similar flights over South Korea, Malaysia, and Thailand to expand the dataset.

Impact on Asia

  • ASIA-AQ collaboration engages NASA and Asian governments to address the region's high air pollution death rates.
  • Asian Context: One-third of global air pollution deaths occur in Asia, with alarming rates like 100 deaths per 100,000 people in the Philippines.
  • Shared Outcomes: Flight results to be publicly disseminated after one year to facilitate informed decision-making.
  • Mission Objective: To mitigate the severe health impacts of air pollution across Asia through enhanced forecasting.

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