A video production for NASA’s Earth Information Center about air quality in Washington, D.C.

Air pollution in DC has declined by 50% in the last two decades. NASA uses sensors aboard satellites and aircraft to obtain measurements of nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and other pollutants near cities, suburbs and major transportation systems.

With the few ground-level air monitors we have in the city, it’s very difficult for any individual to understand what pollution levels are in their neighborhood. NASA’s satellite data helps to fill in the gaps between those monitors so we can understand the different pollution levels experienced in different neighborhoods throughout the city.

When coupled with socioeconomic data about race, ethnicity, poverty and health, air quality observations help identify environmental challenges that disproportionately impact specific communities and underline how much more work there is to be done to minimize pollutant exposure for vulnerable populations.