February 15, 2010

International: Haze in the Himalayan Region

Namaste! Dr. Amy Huff and I are in Kathmandu, Nepal this week helping conduct a course on satellite remote sensing for air quality analysis, partly sponsored by NASA and hosted by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development. As a special feature, we will post on the air quality in Kathmandu and Nepal this week, highlighting both the unique and universal air quality issues of the region.

The Himalaya mountains are stunningly beautiful but sometimes they are obscured by intense haze. The Kathmandu basin traps many of the pollutants produced here from fires (including wildfires, agriculture, and small scale burning), vehicles of all kinds, and industry (such as brick kilns). The basin also captures pollution transported throughout the region. Two days ago, this was a view from above the city, showing strong haze and fog.

Today started with an inversion and a haze layer that cleared by afternoon. The MODIS true color image from MODIS Rapid Response shows relatively clear skies over Kathmandu and Nepal, but significant haze to the east over Bangladesh (edited image below left and higher resolution image without labels here). The aerosol optical depth (AOD) image from LAADs show low AOD levels in Nepal but very high AOD (0.8 to over 1) over Bangladesh and northern India (below right).

Consistent with the true color and AOD data, the NO2 levels from OMI are elevated in northern India and Bangladesh as well, with low levels over Nepal (below left). These relatively clear skies meant the hills and Himalaya mountains could be seen in this sunset photo over the temples of Patan Durbar Square.

[Update 19 Feb 2010: We had a wonderful time teaching the satellite air quality class at ICIMOD in Kathmandu! The final in-class exercise by the participants was to prepare weblog entries. The following are their posts. We really enjoyed meeting our great group of participants and learning about Nepal and air quality here in the Himalayan region!]

Posted by Jill Engel-Cox at February 15, 2010 11:47 PM
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