The ASIA-AQ project, a collaboration between the US agency and governments in a region with one of the highest air pollution-related death rates in the world, is set to begin this week in the Philippines. About a third of global air pollution-related deaths occur in Asia, with approximately 100 deaths per 100,000 people in the Philippines alone. Scientists believe this number will continue to rise in the coming years.
The project aims to improve the ability to identify sources and behaviors of air pollution, which can lead to more accurate warning systems for the public. To accomplish this, the US agency’s DC-8 aircraft will fly for up to eight hours at a time, sometimes just 15 meters off the ground, to collect airborne particles for study. Readings from aircraft can help fill gaps in interpreting satellite data and create more accurate models that will improve forecasting air quality.
NASA’s lab has already flown twice this week over densely populated areas of the Philippines, equipped with highly sensitive instruments. In addition, a smaller NASA Gulfstream jet capable of creating three-dimensional maps of airborne pollutants will also conduct exploratory flights over South Korea, Malaysia, and Thailand in the coming weeks. After a year, the results of the study will be shared with the public by NASA program officials.
According to Manila Observatory scientist Maria Cambaliza, who spoke to reporters Thursday, there are currently 100 such deaths per 100,000 people in the Philippines alone. Although this study is a collaboration between the US agency and government officials, it is expected that results will be made available to the public.