Map of the California 2013 Campaign
Map of the California 2013 Campaign

Two NASA research planes are flying between Bakersfield and Fresno in January and February 2013 – one as close as 1,000 feet to the ground – to measure air pollution with a number of onboard science instruments. This map shows their flight path, which includes making measurements from the aircraft and from ground-based monitoring sites to help scientists better understand how to "see" ground-level pollution from space in the future.

The planes are part of a five-year NASA science study called DISCOVER-AQ, which stands for Deriving Information on Surface conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality. Its team of researchers is working to improve the ability of satellites to consistently observe air quality in the lowest part of the atmosphere. If scientists could more effectively observe pollution from space, they would be able to make better air quality forecasts and more accurately determine where pollution is coming from and how emissions vary. That understanding could also help researchers develop successful strategies to reduce pollution.

A four-engine P-3B turboprop plane from the Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., carries eight science instruments. A two-engine B200 King Air aircraft from NASA Langley carry two remote sensors. Sampling focuses on agricultural and vehicle traffic areas extending from Bakersfield to Fresno. The flight path passes over six ground measurement sites operated by the California Air Resources Board and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

A fleet of Earth-observing satellites, called the Afternoon Constellation or "A-train," pass over the DISCOVER-AQ study area each day in the early afternoon. The satellites' data give scientists the chance to compare the view from space with that from the ground and aircraft.

Image credit: Tim Marvel/NASA

Page Last Updated: August 14th, 2013
Page Editor: Katie Bethea