NASA, Partners Celebrate First Anniversary of Vital Air Quality Communications Resource in Mesoamerica, Caribbean
NASA, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and their partners today celebrate the first anniversary of the air quality initiative within SERVIR that delivers in-situ, satellite-based, and modeled air quality data to forecasters, researchers, broadcasters, and communities throughout Mesoamerica and the Caribbean.
A key component of SERVIR is now the Mesoamerica and Caribbean 'Smog Blog,' which provides timely information about air pollution and its sources in the region. This Smog Blog helps the public, governments and health officials monitor air quality and mitigate health impacts. In the past year of the Smog Blog's implementation, daily reports on air quality have been provided by faculty and students at the University of Panama in Panama City, and staff from the Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean, known by its Spanish acronym CATHALAC. The Smog Blog is building on capacity in the region. The team of bloggers is beginning to expand to involve specialists from other institutions in the region.
The SERVIR air quality initiative is part of the broader SERVIR effort. SERVIR is a Spanish acronym for the Regional Visualization & Monitoring System. The SERVIR system integrates the satellite resources of the United States and other countries to put Earth observation data and other tools into action across Mesoamerica. SERVIR is supported by NASA and USAID, which is the foreign assistance agency which works to improve the livelihoods of people in developing countries. Satellites launched and maintained by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provide air quality information of use to the region, as well as information about forest fires, floods and other severe events.
"We are very pleased with our progress during the past 12 months," said NASA researcher Dan Irwin, project director for SERVIR at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. "SERVIR is now routinely providing extremely useful air quality information to users throughout the region. Through NASA's successful partnership with CATHALAC, we are helping deliver information to improve the lives of Central America’s 41 million inhabitants."
In addition to the Smog Blog, in-situ data from Panama and forecast data from the Community Multiscale Air Quality Modeling System (CMAQ) also have been integrated recently into SERVIR's air quality component. These tools all help to provide a comprehensive picture of current, historical and future air quality in the region. Through SERVIR, users also can access training materials. Online tutorials are available to teach members of the community to use the satellite data for assessment of air quality. Additionally, help files accessible on the site make complex satellite data easier for users to understand.
"SERVIR's new air quality initiative has been a powerful communication tool serving the entire region," said Emilio Sempris, Director of CATHALAC. "It has improved the everyday lives of our community and aided government agencies as well."
Users in the region concur. "As a newcomer to Panama City, I find SERVIR's Smog Blog extremely useful in looking at the City's overall air quality, so that I can plan my daily trips. I can see when events in other countries are affecting the quality of the air I'm breathing here, and I can even check to see if my family back home in Belize is breathing easy," said Marlon Brown, an international student studying architecture at the University of Panama, and an avid reader of the Smog Blog.
"We hope, by providing additional avenues to share real-time air quality information, to make an impact in improving the quality of life throughout Mesoamerica and the Caribbean," said Dr. Amy Huff; research scientist for Battelle Memorial Institute, a SERVIR partner based in Columbus, Ohio. "Air quality has had an immense public health impact on this region, and one goal of the SERVIR team is to mitigate health-related issues brought on by poor air quality."
The SERVIR air quality initiative is implemented by CATHALAC, NASA, the University of Panama, Battelle and Baron Advanced Meteorological Systems. NASA, USEPA and USAID have funded the initiative. The Smog Blog builds on an endeavor of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.
To read the Mesoamerican and Caribbean Smog Blog, visit:
To learn more about SERVIR and NASA's work to improve real-time earth observation, visit:
Janet Anderson, 256-544-6162
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.