Air quality in Beijing is better than he expected, but the top medical officer for the International Olympic Committee said that pollution was still a concern, particularly for endurance athletes like runners in the signature Olympic event, the marathon.
And even if the health of the world's elite athletes is not at risk, what about their performances? Could pollution keep a world record from being broken?
China, for its part, is acutely aware of the scrutiny its air quality is receiving, and it will no doubt take extraordinary measures to clear the air.
A longer-term solution is needed, not only for the health of Chinese citizens but for Californians and others living on the West Coast of North America.
A new NASA study estimated that Asian emissions and dust from natural sources adds about an additional 15% pollution burden to North America.
From NASA's description of the study:
In a new NASA study, researchers taking advantage of improvements in satellite sensor capabilities offer the first measurement-based estimate of the amount of pollution from East Asian forest fires, urban exhaust, and industrial production that makes its way to western North America.
China, the worlds most populated country, has experienced rapid industrial growth, massive human migrations to urban areas, and considerable expansion in automobile use over the last two decades. As a result, the country has doubled its emissions of man-made pollutants to become the worlds largest emitter of tiny particles called pollution aerosols that are transported across the Pacific Ocean by rapid airstreams emanating from East Asia.
Hongbin Yu, an associate research scientist of the University of Maryland Baltimore County working at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., grew up in China and taught there as a university professor, where he witnessed first-hand and studied how pollution from nearby power plants in China affected the local environment. Early this decade, scientists began using emerging high-accuracy satellite data to answer key questions about the role tiny particles play in the atmosphere, and eventually expanded their research to include continent-to-continent pollution transport. So Yu teamed with other researchers to take advantage of the innovations in satellite technology and has now made the first-ever satellite-based estimate of pollution aerosols transported from East Asia to North America.
The new measurements from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASAs Terra satellite substantiate the results of previous model-based studies, and are the most extensive to date. The new study will be published this spring in the American Geophysical Unions Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. ...
Yu and his colleagues measured the trans-Pacific flow of pollution in teragrams, a unit of measurement of the mass of pollution aerosol (1 teragram is about 2.2 billion pounds). Satellite data confirmed 18 teragrams almost 40 billion pounds of pollution aerosol was exported to the northwestern Pacific Ocean and 4.5 teragrams nearly 10 billion pounds reached North America annually from East Asia over the study period. ...
Pollution movements fluctuate during the year, with the East Asian airstream carrying its largest load in spring and smallest in summer. The most extensive East Asian export of pollution across the Pacific took place in 2003, triggered by record-breaking wildfires across vast forests of East Asia and Russia. Notably, the pollution aerosols also travel quickly. They cross the ocean and journey into the atmosphere above North American in as little as one week.
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