"Without the TEMIS data, I would say that it would be impossible to do" the Beijing emissions study, Wang says. Chinese scientists were able to provide some data, she says, but it didn't come close to the details captured by the satellites. Wang and her colleagues continue to use ESA data to study regional NO2 emission distribution as well as gauge the amount of nitric oxide (NO) plus nitrogen dioxide (collectively known as NOX) present in the air.
ESA data has also been used to study patterns of gaseous pollutant emissions throughout India and to assess the prevalence of disease related to air pollution in New Zealand.
Zehner says that the agency plans to build and launch at least five "sentinel" satellites to monitor not only trace gases that indicate pollution in the atmosphere, but also the surface temperature of the oceans, the movement of ice and the shifting of land masses. The first three are expected to launch by 2012; the remaining two are tentatively scheduled to be sent into orbit by 2015, he says.
ESA's goal is to provide reliable information that can be used to advocate and establish policies designed to improve the environment, Zehner says, adding, "We are offering the first steps needed for monitoring greenhouse gases and other environmental areas."