Posted on 10/07/2020

New satellite data will improve air quality tracking and predictions in underserved communities 

LOS ANGELES — On California Clean Air Day, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that the City of Los Angeles has been awarded a $1.3 million grant to lead NASA’s “Predicting What We Breathe” project — a new initiative that utilizes NASA’s existing satellite equipment to better understand, predict, and address air quality impacts in Los Angeles. 

“Clean air is a fundamental human right for people everywhere — and securing it starts at home, with bold steps to fight air pollution and protect the health of communities left to deal with the consequences of dirty air for far too long,” said Mayor Garcetti. “Our partnership with NASA hands our city another vital tool to predict air quality in our neighborhoods, measure the effectiveness of our efforts to clean our air, create a model for counterparts worldwide, and deliver on our promise of equity and sustainability in Los Angeles.”

NASA’s investment will fund two years of research to devise a platform that integrates data from ground and spaced-based air quality measurements. When complete, the model will be able to provide local officials with new information to predict local air quality, issue more effective on-the-ground intervention tactics, and receive detailed feedback on the impact of current efforts to reduce air pollution citywide. 

“A predictive model based on machine learning such as the one developed by the City of Los Angeles will enhance and enable focused air quality science investigations and predictions, by facilitating the access, integration, understanding and visualization of disparate datasets locally to satellite sensors,” said Dr. Jacqueline Le Moigne, the Advanced Information Systems Technology Program Manager for NASA’s Earth Science Technology Office.

The project will also provide City officials with data to address air quality measurement gaps that exist in underserved communities, which are often those most adversely impacted by air pollution. As a part of the grant, hundreds of small-scale sensors will be installed in areas of South Los Angeles, Wilmington, and the San Fernando Valley. L.A. County is home to more than half of the state’s most disadvantaged communities, as determined by CalEnviroScreen, a ranking that uses air pollution and asthma rates as key indicators in their analysis. 

“Predicting What We Breathe” is a partnership between a group of public, private, and academic organizations, including: the City of Los Angeles, NASA, the Southern California Air Quality Management District, Safecast, OpenAQ, SmartAirLA, the California State University of Los Angeles, and the L.A. Data Science Federation.