Combining low-cost, surface-based aerosol monitors with size-resolved satellite data for air quality applications

Priyanka deSouza, Ralph A. Kahn, James A. Limbacher, Eloise A. Marais, Fábio Duarte, Carlo Ratti
2020 Atmospheric Measurement Techniques  
Abstract. Poor air quality is the world's single largest environmental health risk, and air quality monitoring is crucial for developing informed air quality policies. Efforts to monitor air pollution in different countries are uneven, largely due to the high capital costs of reference air quality monitors (AQMs), especially for airborne particulate matter (PM). In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, few cities operate AQM systems. It is thus important to examine the potential of alternative
more » ... f alternative monitoring approaches. Although PM measurements can be obtained from low-cost optical particle counters (OPCs), data quality can be an issue. This paper develops a new method using raw aerosol size distributions from multiple, surface-based low-cost OPCs to constrain the Multiangle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) component-specific, column aerosol optical depth (AOD) data, which contain some particle-size-resolved information. The combination allows us to derive surface aerosol concentrations for particles as small as ∼0.1 µm in diameter, which MISR detects but are below the OPC detection limit of ∼0.5 µm. As such, we obtain better constraints on the near-surface particulate matter (PM) concentration, especially as the smaller particles tend to dominate urban pollution. We test our method using data from five low-cost OPCs deployed in the city of Nairobi, Kenya, from 1 May 2016 to 2 March 2017. As MISR passes over Nairobi only once in about 8 d, we use the size-resolved MISR AODs to scale the more frequent Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS)-derived AODs over our sites. The size distribution derived from MISR and MODIS agrees well with that from the OPCs in the size range where the data overlap (adjusted-R2∼0.80). We then calculate surface-PM concentration from the combined data. The situation for this first demonstration of the technique had significant limitations. We thus identify factors that will reduce the uncertainty in this approach for future experiments. Within these constraints, the approach has the potential to greatly expand the range of cities that can afford to monitor long-term air quality trends and help inform public policy.
doi:10.5194/amt-13-5319-2020 fatcat:xhl4mwh6jvgmlbz5obmwfecca4