Map of the Houston 2013 Campaign

Two NASA aircraft will fly over the Houston area through September – one as low as 1,000 feet – 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 will focus on the Houston metropolitan area ranging from Conroe in the north to Galveston in the south. The flight path is designed to pass  over and complement the air quality information gathered at ground measurement sites operated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the City of Houston. Many of these sites will also be augmented with additional measurements by DISCOVER-AQ and collaborating scientists sponsored by the Texas Air Quality Research Program.

The DISCOVER-AQ team is working closely with local partners for the Houston campaign who have invested many years of effort to monitor and study air quality in Houston. These partners include the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the City of Houston, University of Houston, University of Texas, Rice University, and Baylor University.

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.

+ Learn more about DISCOVER-AQ

Image credit: Tim Marvel/NASA 



Page Last Updated: September 24th, 2013
Page Editor: Katie Bethea