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NASA tracks air pollution to help make better air quality forecasts

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Posted at 10:57 PM, Feb 28, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-28 22:57:01-05

Crews at NASA Langley are taking action against air pollution to help make better air quality forecasts across the country, even here in Hampton Roads.

Two NASA planes have been on the move recently to better track air pollution high in the sky and what we breathe on the ground.

The NASA B-200 is back in Hampton Roads after completing a mission in California called discover-AQ.

It's there that the plane flew nearly 28,000 feet, while another plane flew in spirals to help scientists get a more detailed look at ground pollution from space which is difficult for satellites to do right now.

“You want to do the spirals so that you take a very detailed measure of how things change as you go up in the atmosphere,” says Richard Ferrare, a NASA Research Scientist.

While it might look like your typical airplane from the outside, from the inside, it`s a whole lot different.

As you take a look inside, you can tell there are barely any seats around because a lot of it is used for instrumentation to check out our atmosphere from high above.

Instruments, sensors, and even telescopes on-board the plane allow scientists to more accurately figure out where pollution is coming from and how forecasts can be improved, even when wildfires, like  the Great Dismal Swamp fire in 2011 affected us here in Hampton Roads.

Many of us probably recall when you walked out the door some mornings you smelled that smoke, well, that`s another impact on air quality that comes from this particular region. And again, it`s important to know where that smoke from that Dismal Swamp fire is traveling and the altitude at which it is.

And through the power of the aircraft and sites based on the ground, scientists could help improve our health when it comes to pollution.