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.

Welcome to ILMApilot project


ILMApilot project kicked-off! 

ILMApilot project started in October 2016 with the aim of increasing the societal impact of satellite-based atmospheric observations for air quality monitoring. In particular, ILMApilot focuses on the application of satellite nitrogen dioxide (NO_2) observations for monitoring air quality at high latitudes.

Why are we interested in NO2? NO2 is a pollutant gas produced through fossil fuel combustion. Satellite instruments are able to measure the NO2 content in the atmosphere by using the Sun light. Currently, atmospheric NO2 observations are available from the Dutch-Finnish Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI), flying onboard NASA’s Aura satellite since October 2004. Satellite-based data can be used, for example, to provide pollution maps (as shown in the picture above for the Helsinki area) and to find out how the pollution levels change with time. One interesting result was that pollution levels during the weekend are found to be lower than during the rest of the week. These results attracted some attention by the Finnish media as you can read here (well, if you are a Finnish speaker). Also, the Helsinki local environmental authority (HSY) used these maps for their annual air quality report.

Now, we hope to further improve the impact of these results, introducing data from new satellite instruments and involving new collaboration partners.

ILMApilot is funded by the Academy of Finland under the “Key project research funding: Forging ahead with research”. One of the peculiar features of this call is the importance of the interaction between researchers and users as well as the general public. For this reason, traditional dissemination approaches suitable for the scientific community (e.g., scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals or scientific conferences) did not seam to be sufficient. So, here we are! This blog will work as project report as well as direct communication channel to reach a broader audience.

If you are interested on how to improve the impact of scientific research this is the place for you.

Stay in touch!


P.S. You can find some information about me on the section Contact