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Smog and Sand over Beijing

Smog and Sand over Beijing

During the early part of the year, there is considerable outflow of pollution from China and Southeast Asia. Carbon monoxide is a good tracer of this pollution because it is produced by incomplete combustion processes such as the burning of fossil fuels in urban and industrial areas, the use of biofuels in developing countries, and by biomass burning in the tropics.

This false-color image shows the concentrations of carbon monoxide in the atmosphere off the coast of Asia and out over the Pacific Ocean. This image represents a composite of data collected during February 2006 by the Measurements of Pollution in the Troposphere (MOPITT) instrument aboard NASA’s Terra satellite. The colors represent the amount of carbon monoxide in a column of air, given in molecules per square centimeter. The gray areas show where no data were collected due to persistent cloud cover.

Pollution plumes from Asia can be observed in satellite imagery as they spread far out over the Pacific Ocean, and in some instances the plumes reach the western coast of the United States. Over China, industrial emissions are mainly responsible for the high levels of carbon monoxide observed in the image. In Southeast Asia (lower left corner), February and March are months for widespread agricultural burning, and the carbon monoxide over that region may be from the high number of fires.

NASA image created by Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory, using data provided by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the Univeristy of Toronto MOPITT teams.