UV aerosol index from 380 and 340 nm over Northern Africa as acquired by Sentinel-5P on August 6, 2018 (processed by Sinergise). See it in EO Browser.

Measuring Air Pollution from Space

Sabina Dolenc
May 13 · 5 min read
Source: UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Gaseous Air Pollutants of Primary Concern

Air pollution is a release of various gases into the atmosphere, such as solids and dispersed liquid aerosols which cannot be absorbed in the environment. There are six common air pollutants also known as criteria air pollutants defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which can harm our health and the environment:

Sources of Air Pollution

A substantial part of harmful pollutants is the direct or indirect result of human activity such as burning of fossil fuels in electricity generation, transport, industry and households, industrial processes and solvent use (e.g. in chemical and mineral industries), agriculture and waste treatment.

Monitoring Air Pollution with Satellites

The reasons for air quality monitoring are obvious, and the need to develop appropriate improvement strategies even more so. During the process of development these strategies, decision-makers rely on different resources. The main ones are satellite data and different computer models which show how pollution accumulates and how it is carried in the air.

Sentinel-5P (Image credit: ESA)

Sentinel-5P Data

The TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI) on board of the Sentinel-5P satellite is a hyperspectral imager with a swath width of 2600 km covering bands in ultraviolet and visible (270–495 nm), near infrared (675–775 nm) and shortwave infrared (2305–2385 nm), at a spatial resolution as high as 7 km x 3.5 km.

Mapping the global atmosphere every day, the Sentinel-5P satellite provides high-resolution data on a multitude of trace gases and information on aerosols that affect air quality and climate. (Image credit: ESA)

Start Exploring

To browse the data and observe the concentration of air pollution we recommend using the EO Browser, which beside other data sources, serves level 2 geophysical products of the Sentinel-5P. The data is available since April 2018 with one day revisit time, and it covers almost the whole globe.

NO₂ levels over China and South Korea as seen with Sentinel-5P on May 9, 2019. Follow the link to EO Browser and browse through the history of data.
  • CH₄ — Methane
  • CLOUD — various geophysical parameters of clouds
  • CO — Carbon Monoxide
  • HCHO — Formaldehyde
  • NO₂ — Nitrogen Dioxide
  • O₃ — Ground-level Ozone
  • SO₂ — Sulfur Dioxide
High levels of CH₄ over Nigeria (Sentinel-5P, acquired on February 17, 2019 — link to EO Browser). — Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that enters the atmosphere mainly from the fossil fuel industry, landfill sites, livestock farming, rice agriculture and wetlands.
Left: A time-lapse of O levels over the Atlantic ocean and its surrounding continents (Sentinel-5P, data acquired between March 15 and April 30, 2019). Right: The area being covered with the time-lapse. The time-lapse can be easily created within EO Browser. In order to use this feature yourself, you will need to register for a free account.

Air Pollution Use Case on Sentinel Hub Education Page

For a better understanding and to learn more about monitoring and measuring air pollution from space we also invite you to visit our Sentinel Hub Education page, where you will be able to explore useful links and tools addressing different Earth observation subjects.

The air pollution use case, as well as some other resources, was prepared with support from the ESA and using Copernicus data. (Image credit: Sentinel Hub)

Sentinel Hub Blog

Stories from the next generation satellite imagery platform

Sabina Dolenc

Written by

Sentinel Hub Blog

Stories from the next generation satellite imagery platform