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How to Find and Visualize Daily Nitrogen Dioxide Satellite Data from EOSDIS

Find research-quality nitrogen dioxide data to assess regional air quality and potential trends in industrial activity.

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The GGAO SLR system in operation. The green beam is the laser. Image courtesy: NASA GGAO.
The GGAO SLR system in operation. The green beam is the laser. Image courtesy: NASA GGAO.
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Nitrogen dioxide can quickly transform into ground-level ozone, a major respiratory pollutant and one of the main ingredients of summertime smog.

Map showing nitrogen dioxide density data for China in early 2020.

Nitrogen dioxide levels decrease when businesses and factories close, or when there are fewer vehicles on the road. Past observations have shown that air pollution usually decreases during China’s Lunar New Year celebration, for example, and then increases once the celebration is over. But this year nitrogen dioxide didn’t rebound as it usually does.

A preliminary analysis by NASA researchers, discussed on Earth Observatory, compared nitrogen dioxide values detected by the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite in 2020 with the average amounts detected at this time of year from 2005–2019. In early 2020, nitrogen dioxide values in eastern and central China were 10 to 30 percent lower than what is normally observed for this time period. There is corroborating evidence that the change is at least partly related to the economic slowdown following the outbreak of coronavirus.

In addition to OMI, the Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI) on the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-5 satellite also measures nitrogen dioxide. The maps produced by Earth Observatory compare TROPOMI measurements of nitrogen dioxide density across China from January 1–20, 2020 and February 10–25.

Access NO2 Measurements

You can access research-quality NO2 data to assess regional air quality and potential trends in industrial activity. The data are available at a daily time step (one view per day when clouds allow) from TROPOMI and OMI using Earthdata Search. Giovanni and Worldview can be used to explore and visualize the data.

  • Earthdata Search provides OMI NO2 data in daily gridded (0.25 degree latitude x 0.25͒ degree longitude) and non-gridded products at the native resolution (minimum of 13x24 km2 for the nadir pixel); data are in Hierarchical Data Format Release 5 (HDF5) format and can be opened using a freely available NASA tool, Panoply. The data are typically provided with a 48-hour lag.
    A tutorial on using OMI NO2 data, from the NASA Health and Air Quality Applied Sciences Team (HAQAST), is available as a PDF. An EOSDIS webinar on using NO 2 data within Java and Excel is available on the Earthdata YouTube channel.
  • TROPOMI NO2 data can be accessed in Earthdata Search. The data are at 5.5x3.5 km2 resolution in NetCDF that can also be opened in Panoply. These TROPOMI data are typically available 10 days after measurement by the instrument. The European Space Agency (ESA) provides additional information on this data product.
  • TROPOMI data are also available from the NASA Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center (GES DISC) via cooperative agreement with ESA. The TROPOMI data are in Level 2 satellite-swath files, which can be subset by time, region, and variable using the GES DISC’s Level 2 data subsetter. Searching for “TROPOMI NO2” in the Data Collections will return two TROPOMI NO2 data products that you can download.
Screenshot of Worldview showing nitrogen dioxide data.

Explore OMI NO2 data in Giovanni

OMI NO2 data can be visualized with an interactive NASA tool called Giovanni. The data can be viewed as a time-averaged map, an animation, seasonal maps, scatter plots, or a time series. Follow these steps to plot data in Giovanni:

  1. Select a map plot type; for more information on choosing a type of plot, see the Giovanni User Manual.
  2. Select a date range and a region of interest. Data are in multiple temporal resolutions, so be sure to note the start and end date of the desired dataset. In the “Select Region” box, you can choose a country, state, or province of interest, or leave it blank for global data.
  3. Check the box of the variable in the left column that you'd like to include and then plot the data. It is also possible to find data with keywords, such as “NO2” or “nitrogen dioxide”. You can download maps created in Giovanni in GeoTIFF, KMZ (useful in Google Earth) or PNG formats.

NASA’s Air Quality site provides more information on NO2, as well as trend maps and pre-made images of NO2 over cities and power plants. The Health and Air Quality Data Pathfinder provides instructions on how to access data related to other air pollutants such as particulate matter and sulfur dioxide.

Page Last Updated: Jun 10, 2020 at 2:28 PM EDT