SLUSH17 and TROPOMI first-light

Last week has been very exiting for many reasons.

I addended SLUSH17 startup event in Helsinki, where 20000 people met to pitch their business ideas and to find investors to make them real. It was actually weird to notice how differently entrepreneurs think. We researchers are extremely conservative sometimes. Maybe that’s how it should be. But perhaps we loose a little bit the big picture. We typically focus on a tiny part of a much larger problem to solve and we should try to keep in mind why we do what we do.

So what was a researcher like me doing at SLUSH17? Well, since I am always looking for new applications for atmospheric satellite data, I though to go and see what people outside academia are thinking. Looking for inspiration, basically. I got an academic pass and I went on listening pitches and speeches  covering the most different topics.

The event started with some nice words from the Finnish President Niinistö and with a present from the SLUSH community to Finland for its 100 years birthday: the hashtag #BragForFinland. Finnish people are typically know for being too modest and it might be useful to learn something about self-celebrating. A very interesting speech came also from Al Gore, that covered something really close to my work. He spoke about the climate crisis and all the tools that we have now to respond to this crisis. He encouraged entrepreneurs to embrace this challenges coming from climate change and to be part of the solution.

Another reason I was there was the Skolar Award. The Finnish company Kaskas Media organised this science pitching competition for the third time this year to promote new original ideas from different sectors of science. Janne Hakkarainen was ready to pitch last Friday the idea of monitoring greenhouse-gas man-made emissions using satellite data. He did not win at the end but he pitched like a rockstar. You can read more about this on his blog: or watch the pitching from here:

On the same day, TROPOMI’s first-light press conference also happened. ESA came out with incredibly detailed pictures of air pollutants like for example this mind-blowing picture showing the NO2 levels in Europe for November 22nd. If you though OMI is great (and it is!), this is now another level of greatness.

These new data will further revolutionize the way we monitor air pollution as they provide high definition global information on air pollution on daily bases. Looking forward to use Tropomi data for more and more applications.

Stay tuned!



India is the new China

Last week India was a lot in the news because of the extremely bad air quality in Delhi due to crop burning, pollution and unfavourable meteorological condition. Helsingin Sanomat talked about children getting sick in Delhi, schools closing for the smog, car crashes due to scarce visibility and what not. Check out the full article here in Finnish:

They also used satellite data to illustrate the problem to the readers as for example with this map of aerosol index from GOME-2:

GOME-2 aerosol index on November 9th, 2017. Red colours indicate extremely high concentrations of particulate matter in the atmosphere over northern India.

Almost at the same time, a new Nature paper by our Nasa colleagues came out with the title “India Is Overtaking China as the World’s Largest Emitter of Anthropogenic Sulfur Dioxide. Their results are based on OMI SO2 observations and on the emission estimation based on such satellite data. SO2 (sulfur dioxide) is an air pollutant typically produced when coal is burned to generate electricity and it is found in high concentrations close to power plants, smelters and refineries. They found that sulfur dioxide emissions increased by 50% in India, while they fell by 75% in China over the last decade.

I think these results really put things into perspective. While this specific episode of smog is occurring during the crop burning season, it is worth stressing the context in which this is happening. Have a look at the global SO2 maps for 2005 and 2016 below, and try to find the differences (be careful though, some of them are volcanoes!). You will see that, according to OMI satellite data, air polluting emissions decreased dramatically in USA and Europe and recently also in China, while growing in India, as a result of the increasing amount of coal burning power plant installed in the country.

OMI SO2 concentrations in the lower levels of the atmosphere in 2005 and 2016. High values are in green-yellow-red-black while low in white-blue colours.


This is a gigantic wake up call. It reminds us how crucial the environmental protection policies are and that they should not be taken for granted.

An exiting day in atmospheric monitoring

Let’s take a moment to celebrate. Or self-celebrate.

In a researcher’s life there are really a few moments when everybody, or even somebody, recognise your achievements. When it happens, you mostly feel ashamed of your own success. But today, let’s try another way.

Helsingin Sanomat today published an interview to Johanna and me, including many of my OMI NO2 pictures to monitor air pollution. You can find the article here (in Finnish):

My favourite visualisation is the before/after global map of tropospheric NO2, where you can compare the pollution levels in 2005 and 2016. It’s clear how air pollution increased in India and Middle-East, while decreased in US and Europe. Also in China, the most polluted area in the world, pollution started decreasing a couple of years ago as a result of new environmental policies to protect air quality and the health of the local population.

Before I even had the opportunity to open my computer, I found several post on Twitter, with my pictures going everywhere. We also had the thrill to see our article as the most read for a couple of hours.


And then the Sun became red.

We woke up this morning here in Southern Finland, experiencing something unusual. The smoke from Iberian forest fires and the desert dust from Northern Africa got transported by the Ophelia hurricane towards Northern Europe and affecting the atmospheric composition there. Seppo from our group came out with a quick press release (in Finnish) on FMI homepage, using SEVIRI and, later on, OMI satellite observations of atmospheric particles. Soon after, his words were on MTV3 webpage:







By coincidence, today there was another interesting article on Helsingin Sanomat about the poor communication skills and readiness of Finnish researchers: The article went on talking about the fact that finnish researchers are not used to communicate their results nor they like to do it.

Well, just for today, we beg to differ.

Short story of my TROPOMI week

It has been a crazy week in the name of science communication.

It all started during the weekend when I spent a few hours of my free time helping in writing a press release about OMI achievements during the last 13 years. So, after a couple of late nights working, we came out with a decent text about how OMI atmospheric observations contributed to improve the understanding of the atmospheric processes and on how these results had great impact on society (available here in Finnish:








I also spent some time trying do develop a nice visualisation for my air pollution satellite data. I used again space-based gridded NO2 observations from OMI, onboard AURA NASA satellite. Nitrogen dioxide pollutes the air mainly as a result of road traffic and other fossil fuel combustion processes.

In the picture above you can have a look at the air pollution situation in Europe and the Middle-East for 2016. Darker colours correspond to the most polluted areas. In Europe, large pollution hotspots are visible in Central Europe and over the major cities (mainly do to road traffic) and industrial areas (Po Valley, Ruhr area and ore mining industrial area in Poland). In the Middle-East, pollution signatures from the oil extraction activities as well as from the main urban areas.

So, after all this work we put the press release out on the FMI site, in preparation for the TROPOMI launch on Friday.

One hour later this happened:




After that, our hopes to get some attention from any journalist or to have any kind of impact on the public were gone. I never thought that my work would have anything to do with the President of Finland baby news, but it did. When we already gave up, we received a call from Helsingin Sanomat for an interview: so my pictures and the results of years of work will end up on the main Finnish newspaper early next week. I’ll get back to you on that on Monday. Moral of the story, I guess “never give up”.


Anyway, this week was TROPOMI week! Today ESA successfully launched its first Sentinel-satellite dedicated to atmospheric composition monitoring: Sentinel 5 Precursor with its only payload TROPOMI (Here the press release in Finnish). TROPOMI will continue OMI atmospheric observations with better spatial resolution and sensitivity. We organised a small happening here in FMI and everybody had the opportunity to get exited in company. The first signal was received and now we can enjoy this moment, knowing that we have opportunity to work on atmospheric remote sensing for hopefully many more years.

I have also got other good news, but I’ll tell you next week. 🙂

Stay tuned,


Report from Air protection days #ilmansuojelupäivät

Satellite-based smoke pictures from ongoing Canadian forest fires on display at #ilmansuojelupäivät

22 August 2017

A large smoke plume from the Canadian forest fires just reached Europe. The picture below shows the OMPS aerosol index maps on August 21st, 2017. Fortunately, this kind of smoke plume is located at very high altitudes and it does not affect the air quality close to the surface. On the other hand, this case-study shows how such local emissions can affect the all globe in just a few days.

Kuva: sampo.fmi.fiImage:

This recent episode was presented today at the Finnish Air protection days – Ilmansuojelupäivät in Lappeenranta. This is a nice example on how satellite-based observations can be used in the air protection monitoring .

In addition, our talk covered the other applications and potential new opportunities in monitoring air quality and greenhouse gases from space in the Arctic region. Among our results, we showed for example, the air quality improvements in Helsinki visible from OMI observations as well as space-based maps of man-made CO2 emission areas.

Also a lot of other interesting topics today: Climate and air protection goals from the Finnish Chairmanship of the Arctic Council; advancing renewable energy’s use in the Arctic; new results in monitoring black carbon emissions from shipping.

After all this, also a nice dinner at Lappeenranta’s fortress!


Report from IWGGMS13 meeting

Two weeks ago we hosted the 13th International Workshop on Greenhouse Gas Measurements from Space in Helsinki. The meeting gathered the top level scientists in the field of GHG monitoring from space. I followed the highlights of the meeting through the hashtag #IWGGMS13.

I presented a poster on how to monitor anthropogenic CO2 signatures using space-based observations. I showed the advantages and limitations in mapping CO2 emission areas from space for different type of sources and I got many useful feedbacks. I used measurements from OCO-2 (Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2), flying on Nasa’s satellite since 2014. No satellite instrument so far has provided such dense and accurate CO2 observations as OCO-2 all over the globe. This opens new exciting opportunities for monitoring the anthropogenic contribution of the atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

We learned also many new things. The Canadian colleagues presented the first attempt to derive CO2 emissions from a single power-plant based on satellite-based measurements. Also, new miniature-sized commercial instruments showed the capability to target one source at the time for pollution plume detection. In the future, we could make air pollution monitoring more comprehensive and sustainable thanks to space-based observations!

Now it’s time to go holiday but I’ll be back in August with more news.




ILMApilot-project presentation material

Hi everybody,

I prepared some material to present the ILMApilot-project’s activities. It’s in Finnish for now but there are a lot of pictures that are worth more than a thousand words 🙂

You can find it here:  ILMApilot presentation materials 

The project is organised in pilots, designed to provide satellite-based air quality products for different purposes and users. One of the pilots has been carried on in collaboration with FMI’s expert service department. We built our air quality maps over Azerbaijan (figure below), where an FMI’s team is helping to implement an air quality monitoring system, via one of their many international cooperation projects. You can read about the project in Finnish and English here: FIN  ENG

Yearly mean NO2 tropospheric columns over Azerbaijan in 2005, 2010 and 2016.

Our satellite-based NO2 maps were used as background information in an area where no other air quality measurements are available. The maps show for example increasing pollution levels over Baku (Azerbaijan’s capital and one of the most polluted cities in the world) from 2005 to 2016. The information about the NO2 distribution over the country provides also insights on where to place the ground-based air quality stations.

I hope to report more on future international collaborations very soon.


Report from EGU 2017

This week I’m in Vienna at the EGU (European Geosciences Union) General Assembly. It is the largest European gathering of scientists in the field of geosciences. Tomorrow I’ll give a talk about mapping anthropogenic CO2 emission areas using satellite-based observations. CO2 (carbon dioxide) is the most important anthropogenic greenhouse gas and it’s produced mostly by fossil fuel combustion.
Our main finding was that satellite-based CO2 measurements alone can provide information about the areas where most of the atmospheric CO2 is produced. Satellite observations have revolutionised the way we monitor air pollution, for example providing very detailed maps of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), as I showed in my previous posts. Because of its long lifetime (many years), deriving information on the CO2 emission areas is not as simple, as CO2 gets transported far from its source. We developed a simple methodology to derive the CO2 anomalies and their spatial distribution. Look for example at the picture from the Middle-East region: we can spot oil extraction areas in Iraq and Saudi Arabia as well as isolated cities, such as Kairo, Riyadh, Mecca, Tehran and the state of Qatar.
Map of CO2 anomalies over the Middle-East derived from NASA’s OCO-2 measurements.
In this study we analysed the atmospheric CO2 concentrations measured by the NASA’s OCO-2 (Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2) instrument (available since September 2014). The results open new possibilities for monitoring anthropogenic CO2 from space. Further studies and new instruments will provide new insight on greenhouse gas monitoring and climate research. In the future, we might be able to verify the changes in the anthropogenic CO2 emissions and the effect of climate change mitigation actions.
If you are interested in the topic, you can have a look at the scientific paper by Hakkarainen et al. (2016):

Satellite-data goes Sodankylä

ILMApilot results featured in the expanded Arctic Space Center opening.

Last week we celebrated the opening of the expanded Arctic Space Center at the Finnish Meteorological Institute in Sodankylä and the inauguration of a new reception antenna. This extends the capability to receive atmospheric and surface data from several satellites and enable various applications based on such information. The event included the contribution from several speakers and our OMI (Ozone Monitoring Instrument) work got a really nice shout-out by the KNMI general manager. You can watch the full event here. The event happens on the same year Finland celebrates its 100th birthday and starts the chairmanship of the Arctic Council.

Comparison of air quality levels over Helsinki area during 2005 and 2016. Red color corresponds to higher pollution levels, while yellow-green color to lower pollution levels.

In concomitance with this event, the FMI communication office developed a video collecting examples of satellite expertise at FMI. We had the opportunity to contribute with some results from ILMApilot project. Starting at minute 2:10 of the video you can find several atmospheric monitoring maps. One example is shown in the picture above where the pollution maps (based on OMI NO2 observations) show the air quality improvement observed in the last 12 years over Helsinki area. The area with the highest pollution levels (red color) observed in 2005 becomes sensibly smaller (yellow-green color) in 2016.

ILMApilot aims at improving the use of satellite-based observations in applications serving the Finnish society. Similar maps as shown in the picture above have been used for example by HSY (Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority) in their yearly air quality report as background information. Satellite-based observations were rarely used in such services before!

Let’s keep in touch for more updates on atmospheric satellite-data applications.


Air quality satellite data for FMI communication to the public

On January 2017 very bad air quality conditions have been experienced over Central Europe. The reasons of such bad air quality levels are related to the weather, which favoured the accumulation of air pollutants in certain areas in Europe. This exceptionally bad air quality conditions were observed also from satellite-based instruments.

Figure 1. Pollution map over Europe in January 2017 from OMI NO2 observations

Satellite-based observations offer the unique capabilities to provide air quality information in one simple map. Figure 1 shows the distribution of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations during January 2017 as seen from satellite-based retrievals. NO2 is a polluting gas, which is produced in combustion processes for example from car traffic, energy production and industrial activities. The yellow-red colors in fig. 1 correspond to the areas mostly affected by bad air quality. The air quality conditions are especially bad in Germany, Poland and the Netherlands, while the pollution levels in Finland remained relatively low. Currently, the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) provide the best available product for air quality monitoring on global and local scale.

The communication office at the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) used satellite data to inform the public about the bad air quality conditions over Europe through FMI website and Twitter account.

This is just an example on how satellite data facilitate the communication to the public about air quality issues, using images and visual communication.