Millet leads new NASA-funded project

Data from satellites orbiting the Earth are helping us understand the complexities of our atmosphere. Department of Soil, Water, and Climate Professor Dylan Millet will be the lead investigator on a new NASA-funded project using data from the Suomi-NPP and Aura satellites.

The project is looking at one compound in particular – isoprene. Isoprene is produced by many plants and is a volatile organic compound. While not normally considered a pollutant because it is created naturally, when isoprene reacts with human-caused pollutants in the air, it can have important impacts on air pollution and Earth's climate. For example, such reactions can form surface-level ozone, one of the leading pollutants in many countries as well as being a greenhouse gas. These reactions can also lead to formation of particulate matter in the atmosphere, and affect the global nitrogen cycle.

This new project aims to reduce the uncertainty on how much isoprene is being released into the atmosphere, and to better understand how interactions between isoprene and urban air pollutants affect air quality. By creating the first-ever space-based observations of isoprene, Millet and his colleagues at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Vivienne Payne and Dejian Fu) hope to help improve our ability to predict air quality around the world and how it may change in the future.