Although the nation’s air has grown significantly cleaner in recent decades, about 40 percent of Americans – 127 million people – live in counties where pollution levels still regularly exceed national air quality standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Most of the areas with the heaviest pollution are in California, but other parts of the country are anything but immune. On the drive down I-95 between Baltimore and Washington D.C., for example, sweltering summer heat and relentless traffic often leave plumes of polluted air stewing over the highway making the area one of the top 20 smoggiest metro areas in the country.
Come July, all that health-sapping pollution will have company: a 117-foot P-3B NASA research aircraft flying spirals over six ground stations in Maryland. The aircraft is part of a month-long field campaign designed to improve satellite measurements of air pollution.