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RiR Week: Monitoring Air Quality on Earth with Instruments in Space

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My research team at University College London uses big data analysis and computer models to convert large and cumbersome satellite observations of atmospheric composition into useful information about air quality and pollution sources throughout the world. We use data from NASA and ESA missions that are actually freely available, but require advanced skills to process, visualise and interpret. To date, we have confirmed that these satellites observations provide useful information about long-term changes in air quality in large cities in the UK (Birmingham and London) and India (Kanpur and Delhi). This work is undergoing review by our peers in the scientific literature. Read more here.

We are now applying this long-term dataset to determine how rapidly air quality is changing in more than 50 cities in the tropics that are the megacities of the future. We are also working with the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), Ricardo Energy & Environment, and the National Centre for Earth Observations (NCEO) to evaluate air quality products that are used to inform and assess local and regional air quality policies in the UK and mainland Europe.

In an upcoming project with the Leicester City Council funded by Defra, we will use the data products we develop to characterise the contribution of local and distant sources to air pollution in Leicestershire. This will provide the council with information necessary to determine how best to manage air pollution hazardous to health. This is particularly pertinent, as there are plans to impose a stricter limit on outdoor air concentrations of fine particles (termed PM2.5). These penetrate deep into our lungs and have severe effects on health for people of all ages.

As a result of my involvement in the Researcher in Residence programme and with support from the Satellite Applications and Connected Places Catapults, I was selected as a finalist for the Copernicus Masters Challenge and participated for a year in the Copernicus Accelerator programme that provides training and support for enterprising ideas that use Copernicus data products.

If you are working on projects to understand changes in air quality in large cities and would like to discuss opportunities to use the data we develop, please contact me via LinkedIn or at

Dr Eloise A Marais – Associate Professor in Physical Geography, Department of Geography, UCL

Research in Residence Q&A Session – Friday 11 September

If you would like to find out more about all our Research in Residence projects, ask questions, and connect with our academics, join us on Friday 11 September, 10.30am – 12:00pm, when we will be hosting a live Q&A session.

Click here to register

Eloise Marais
Researcher in Residence

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