NASA reveals pollution data maps from new TEMPO instrument

A Ball Aerospace technician inspects the Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) instrument. Ball Aerospace built TEMPO, a geostationary ultraviolet/visible spectrometer, which will provide daylight measurements of ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, formaldehyde and aerosols across North America, from Mexico City to Canada and from coast to coast. Credit: Ball Aerospace

Taking the fight against air pollution to new heights

NASA has ushered in a new era in environmental awareness by releasing the first-ever maps showing concentrations of nitrogen dioxide pollution over North America. Generated by the Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) instrument, the data adds a vital tool to the environmental policy toolkit, augmenting the most comprehensive climate agenda ever laid out by an American administration.

“Neighborhoods and communities across the country will benefit from TEMPO’s game-changing data for decades to come,”

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson

Air quality monitoring

Launched earlier this year, TEMPO orbits Earth at a distance of 22,000 miles above the equator. The instrument is the first space-based entity designed to continuously monitor air quality with unprecedented resolution, covering areas as small as a few square miles.

Diffraction grating within the TEMPO instrument separates the light into different wavelengths to discern the unique patterns of the various pollutants. Credit: Ball Corporation

Tailored solutions for local communities

One of the most remarkable features of TEMPO is its ability to capture air quality disparities within neighborhoods and communities. By partnering with agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA aims to create targeted solutions for pollution hotspots across the country.

Tracking pollution dynamics in real-time

The instrument was designed to keep tabs on pollution from various sources such as traffic during rush hour, agricultural fertilizer applications, and natural disasters like forest fires. The TEMPO mission will support ongoing efforts to assess the health impacts of pollution and create real-time air quality maps.

Enhancing global efforts to combat pollution

TEMPO doesn’t operate in isolation. It forms part of an international constellation of pollution monitors, joining instruments from the European Space Agency and South Korea’s Geostationary Environment Monitoring Spectrometer, providing a more holistic approach to understanding air pollution on a global scale.

Technical details and specifications

  • Launched in April aboard a Maxar Intelsat 40e satellite on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket
  • Makes hourly daytime scans of the lower atmosphere over North America
  • Covers areas from the Atlantic Ocean to Pacific coast and from Mexico City to central Canada
  • Utilizes an advanced spectrometer to detect pollution
  • Built by Ball Aerospace and integrated with Maxar-built Intelsat 40e
  • Will begin full operations in October

Glimpse into the future of environmental policy

As the TEMPO mission continues, it stands to not only provide invaluable data but to alter the way we think about long-term environmental sustainability. By offering precise and timely information, TEMPO equips policymakers and the public with the resources needed to protect the planet for generations to come.


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