Olympic pollution controls had marked impact, say scientists

Posted by Laura Grant on December 21, 2008
Posted in Green News

The efforts of China’s authorities to clean up the air for this year’s Olympics in Beijing had some surprising results, Nasa researchers report.

According to atmospheric scientist Jacquelyn Witte and colleagues from Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Centre, during the two months when authorities temporarily closed some factories and banished many cars in Beijing, the levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – a noxious gas resulting from fossil fuel combustion (primarily in cars, trucks, and power plants) – plunged by nearly 50 percent. Levels of carbon monoxide (CO) fell about 20 percent.

“After the authorities lifted the traffic restrictions, the levels of these pollutants shot right back up,” Witte noted.

The steep decline in certain pollutants came as a surprise to the researchers, says a Nasa news release.

The researchers used Nasa’s Aura and Terra satellites to measure the impact of the air pollution controls.

Witte presented the results on December 16 at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

Ultimately, researchers aim to use satellite data to evaluate and refine models to predict how pollution levels respond to changes in emissions. Such models are important for understanding the integrated Earth system and aiding policymakers considering ways to reduce pollution, says Nasa.

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