South Korea and NASA Collaborate on Winter Air Quality Research in Asia

PYEONGTAEK, South Korea - South Korea and the United States are embarking on a joint research campaign aimed at investigating the causes of air pollution across Asia during the winter season. This initiative is part of a broader effort to enhance air quality and inform policy development for environmental improvement.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the National Institute of Environmental Research (NIER) of South Korea and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the ASIA-AQ campaign will leverage aircraft, satellites, and ground-based sites to gather comprehensive air quality data across various locations in Asia. The campaign has already conducted four flights in the Philippines and Taiwan in recent weeks.

NIER's Director General of the Climate and Air Quality Research Department, Yoo Myung-soo, announced during a press briefing at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, 60 kilometers south of Seoul, that the campaign aims to identify the factors contributing to the deterioration of air quality on the Korean Peninsula during winter. "The findings from this collaborative research will be utilized to improve the effectiveness and reliability of domestic atmospheric environment policies," Yoo stated.

This joint research, scheduled for February 19-26, follows the KORUS-AQ campaign led by South Korea and NASA in 2016. That research revealed that 52 percent of the ultrafine particles in Seoul originated domestically, with 48 percent coming from abroad, including 34 percent from China. The ASIA-AQ campaign distinguishes itself from its predecessor by conducting research in winter instead of spring and utilizing the GEMS satellite, launched by South Korea in 2020 as the world's first geostationary environment satellite to monitor air pollutants across Asia.

Barry Lefer of NASA highlighted the use of the GEMS satellite and detailed ground measurements from 11 air quality research sites across South Korea, including Seoul, Baengnyeong Island, and Jeju Island. The research team will also employ NASA's DC-8 aircraft to collect samples of the lower atmosphere, enhancing the accuracy of their findings.

Jim Crawford, leading the ASIA-AQ project for NASA, emphasized the dual approach of measuring pollutants directly where people breathe and observing the accumulation of total pollutants from space. The campaign aims to verify the GEMS satellite's air quality monitoring, which conducts eight observations daily across Asia, through ground-based comparisons.

Crawford noted that processing the raw data into scientifically useful information would require time, with the findings expected to be shared with the public the following year. This collaboration marks a significant step in understanding and addressing air quality issues in Asia through international cooperation and advanced technology.

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