RESEARCH: SATELLITE DETECTION OF URBAN AIR POLLUTION.

A new technique developed to monitor the concentration of particulate matter in urban air, using satellite-borne sensors, offers a much more cost-effective approach than traditional land-based monitoring, according to the European Commission. The first trials of this system, developed by 11 partners in the Commission-funded ICAROS-NET (Integrated Computational Assessment of urban air quality via Remote Observation Systems NETwork) project, will be unveiled in Athens on October 15. ICAROS-NET runs for three years, and was launched in September 2001. The satellite-borne sensors will monitor atmospheric pollution at very high resolution in areas as small as 30 metres in diameter, by measuring the proportion of light blocked by particulate matter. Preliminary mapping shows that over the 1987-2002 period Aerosol Optical Thickness (AOT), a measure of the optical effect of particulates in the atmosphere, steadily grew in Athens. The Commission says the results will help improve environmental policy making in Europe and the effectiveness of international environmental treaties.

ICAROS-NET will provide for a user-friendly system to assess air quality. It will be of great help to public authorities for taking the right decisions in the environmental field, EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin says. ICAROS-NET will use four areas to test the system. Athens is the first, a city with major pollution problems. Further...

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