Dr. Aaron Naeger, Dr. Susan Alexander and Dr. Michael Newchurch, left to right
UAH’s Dr. Aaron Naeger, Dr. Susan Alexander and Dr. Michael Newchurch, left to right, have been collaborating since 2018. The Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) instrument aboard the geostationary satellite will provide vital data for their research in air quality and impacts to human health.
Michael Mercier | UAH

A team of air-quality researchers at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of the University of Alabama System, expects to receive vital data from a new NASA instrument launched into space on Space X’s Falcon 9 rocket toward its host geostationary satellite, Intelsat 40e, on Friday, April 7.

The Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) is the first spectrometer instrument that will collect hourly daytime observations of major air pollutants over greater North America, revolutionizing scientific capabilities to monitor air quality. It will provide high spatial resolution down to four square miles.

Courtesy Dr. Aaron Naeger

“TEMPO’s Early Adopters program fosters collaboration between end users and data scientists in hopes that applications will be developed, such as hourly air-quality forecasts, that could one day be relayed in weather forecasts on the news,” says Dr. Michael Newchurch of the UAH Earth System Science Center.

Newchurch has been collaborating with Dr. Aaron Naeger, also of the Earth System Science Center, and Dr. Susan Alexander of UAH’s College of Nursing since 2018 through the Early Adopters program. Dr. Naeger is the deputy program applications lead.

The goal of the program is to engage the air-quality operational users and data scientists from across the world to help identify their needs of the data the TEMPO satellite will provide.

“South Korea has built and launched their own geostationary air-quality satellite like TEMPO, and the European Space Agency is in the process,” Dr. Naeger says. “It’s great to be a collaborative partner and help advance air-quality science across the world.”

The TEMPO instrument will measure air pollutants such as ozone between the surface to 2 kilometers in altitude. Sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and formaldehyde will be measured in higher altitudes within the troposphere.

Dr. Alexander has been a public health partner for the TEMPO satellite mission since 2018, studying the impacts of ozone on the public.

“The elevations in ozone levels have been associated with asthma and cardiovascular problems, especially for children and the elderly population,” she says.

Over the next several months, Dr. Alexander will analyze data from the TEMPO satellite, hoping that it will complete a picture of current air-quality information across North America.

“One of my long-term goals is to see applications developed by integrating the air-quality data captured from TEMPO that will allow clinicians to partner with patients to reduce exposure to ozone pollutants and protect the most vulnerable populations,” says Dr. Alexander.

Courtesy Laura Judd

For over 30 years, Dr. Newchurch has been a leader in air-quality research and heavily involved in the TEMPO satellite mission, serving as one of the science team validation leads.

Dr. Naeger has worked alongside Dr. Newchurch on the TEMPO mission since 2016 at UAH. He also oversees the TEMPO Green Papers concept, which allows end-users and stakeholders to submit experiment requests to study rapidly evolving air-quality events, such as wildfires, dust storms, industrial accidents and volcanoes, using the special operations facet of the mission.

“As much as 25% of TEMPO’s observing time will be committed to special operational scans, which are rapid, sub-hourly scans (less than 10 minutes) over portions of TEMPO’s field of regard over greater North America,” Dr. Naeger says. “Experiment requests can be commenced during the commissioning phase from July to October 2023 to collect data on wildfire smoke impacting air quality.”

Dr. Newchurch, Dr. Naeger and Dr. Alexander look forward to collaborating over the data the TEMPO mission will provide. The first data from the satellite is expected to be released to the public in early 2024.



Kristina Hendrix

Elizabeth Gibisch