NextGen Earth Labs (NGEL) is a network of satellite remote sensing scientists and air quality experts. NGEL is working towards a clean air future by providing innovative research solutions to help policy makers, different stakeholders, and general public in making science based informed decisions on air quality. NGEL’s strength lies in integrating inputs from surface, satellite, and physical models into big data analytics framework to provide state of the art air quality trends and forecasts.
Their approach is to measure, monitor, map, report and forecast air quality and make data available to all stakeholders in a web-based platform. NGEL’s visualization and analysis tools can serve as a decision support system for air quality. We rely on observations from multiple satellites across various space agencies such as NASA, NOAA, JAXA, ESA, ISRO. Our mission is to help create a sustainable clean air environment by addressing air quality challenges with the help of our data analysis tools.
A short Q &A with Dr. Falguni Patadia, co-founder and CEO of NGEL:
How (and why) did you decide to work on air pollution?
We all deserve to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and live a healthy life . However, as we know, the current state of air, water, and land has changed dramatically over the past few decades. More than 90% of the global population breathes air that does not meet World Health Organization air quality guidelines. With over 30+ years of combined experience of NGEL’s team, working on satellite remote sensing of atmospheric aerosols and the impact of aerosols on human health and climate, we have a moral responsibility to participate and address the current air quality situation. NGEL’s extensive satellite remote sensing experience provides an unique opportunity to deliver a real-world application of global high quality research-level datasets for monitoring air quality and its impacts.
What projects are you currently working on?
We have several projects lined-up in our pipeline for the next 2-3 years. The current operational air quality project on NGEL’s platform are:
1) Global hourly PM2.5 air quality forecasts with real-time validation using surface measurements operated by government monitors (link)
Forecasting of PM2.5 at city level is performed by integrating outputs from NASA’s global model, real-time satellite observations and historical ground measurements into a big data analytics system enabling us to provide global hourly forecasts for upto 10 days in advance. The online tool also provides an opportunity for the user to evaluate PM2.5 against real-time PM2.5 measurements. These forecasts are currently experimental and we are working towards comprehensive global validations, which will allow us to improve the PM2.5 forecasts and address any caveats that we may face as we move forward. The real-time surface measurements used for validation are obtained from OpenAQ.
2) 40 years of PM2.5 reanalysis extracted over 2000+ global cities (link)
Our second project provides monthly mean PM2.5 for over 2000+ cities globally for the past 38 years. This provides the community with a unique opportunity to analyze and download the long-term data records. These are reanalysis performed by NASA global model, which includes surface and satellite measurements of aerosols. These datasets can serve as a guideline in places where surface measurements are limited/not available. Given the limitations in these datasets, we strongly advise users to be cautious in interpreting long-term trends quantitatively.
There are multiple other projects in pipeline involving low-cost sensors, fires and dust monitoring. Currently, our main focus is to improve the quality of our global forecasts and provide comprehensive validation results to the community.
What are the two biggest challenges towards addressing air pollution in India from your personal and organizational experience?
Although the air pollution problem in India is not new, it was the recent WHO reports that prompted different agencies, including the government, to initiate awareness programs at different levels. However, the pace of action is slow and the biggest challenge is the lack of awareness among public and governments about the seriousness of the problem, specifically the immediate and long-term health and economical impacts.
The second challenge is the lack of long-term and sufficient number of high-quality ground-based measurements of various air pollutants across the country. This in-turn limits the opportunity to develop a comprehensive understanding of the impacts of air pollution on both health and economy.
Persistent awareness through different forums and by enabling science-based decision support tools such as from NGEL, we can not only educate and empower the citizens in making informed decisions but also assist governments in formulating strong policies to holistically address the air pollution problem. We at NGEL believe that good decision and policy making must be based on scientific evidences and that requires high quality data.
What comes next? How do you anticipate engaging with experts and public in India?
NGEL believes in a collaborative-science approach and we are actively engaging with air quality experts not only in India, but across the global air quality community. In India, we are collaborating with educational institutions and aim to involve state/national governments and NGO communities to take it further. Currently, we are enabling web-based solutions and in the coming months, we will be launching user-friendly solutions on mobile platforms. At the same time, our new upcoming citizen-science initiative to actively engage the general public in air quality monitoring will not only help us to improve our solutions, but also connect people standing up for the common cause.
Finally, we welcome all parties interested in using satellite observations for air quality applications to contact us and participate/collaborate/support our clean air future initiative. We look forward for your feedback and suggestions (http://nexgenearth.info/contact).