The Korea-United States Air Quality Mission: An International Cooperative Air Quality Field Study

Now you see it, now you don’t! The photos below were taken in Seoul, South Korea during spring 2016. In the photo on the left, you can see the beautiful Lotte Tower – the tallest building in Seoul.  The photo on the right was taken on a day when fine particulate matter (particle sizes less than 2.5 microns) was exceptionally high—the Lotte Tower is invisible.








Over the past few decades, the East Asia region has experienced significant increases in air pollutant emissions due to rapid economic growth and increased energy use.  From May to June 2016, EPA scientists participated in the Korea-United States Air Quality (KORUS-AQ) Mission in South Korea.  This study, led by NASA and the Korean National Institute of Environmental Research, was carried out to observe air quality across the Korean peninsula and surrounding waters using a combination of satellites, aircraft, ships, and ground-based monitoring sites.  The ultimate goal is to gain a better understanding of the factors that control air quality across urban, rural, and coastal boundaries in East Asia.  The KORUS-AQ Mission is also one of many studies that is contributing to our understanding of the use of satellites to improve air quality monitoring.  Better air quality monitoring can allow for improved protection of public health and the environment.

During KORUS-AQ, EPA had an opportunity to evaluate traditional and emerging methods (including sensors and remote sensing) for measuring air quality in a region with vastly different air pollution levels and mixtures. EPA collected measurements at two ground-based sites and provided monitoring equipment for use on a ship during the concurrent KORUS-OC (Korea-United States Ocean Color) Expedition.
Olympic Park Monitoring siteEntrance to Oly ParkMtTaehwa Site





Images, left to right: (left) Olympic Park monitoring site; (center) entrance to Olympic Park – always encouraging to see a thumbs up before beginning the work day! (right) Mt. Taehwa monitoring site.

The knowledge gained during KORUS-AQ will be used to inform ground-based measurements for the upcoming TEMPO (Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution) satellite launch and other satellite studies designed to improve air quality characterization. During KORUS-AQ, EPA scientists gave hands-on science activities and presentations at schools and universities. Local scientists also helped collect air quality measurements using small, handheld air sensor technologies at several locations outside of the monitoring sites.

To learn more about EPA’s role in the KORUS-AQ Mission, check out our fact sheet. The data collected during this study will be made available to the public in 2017.

About the Author: Rachelle Duvall served as the EPA Co-Principal Investigator on the KORUS-AQ Mission. She conducts research on measurement methods for criteria air pollutants.

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