An exciting 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,