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J Air Waste Manag Assoc. 2017 Jan;67(1):17-26. doi: 10.1080/10962247.2016.1153528.

Spatial and temporal variability in desert dust and anthropogenic pollution in Iraq, 1997-2010.

Author information

a Tel-Aviv University , Department of Geography and Human Environment , Tel-Aviv , Israel.
b Department of Environmental Health , Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health , Boston , MA , USA.
c Michigan Technological University , Houghton , MI , USA.
d Military Performance Division , U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine , Natick , MA , USA.
e Department of Environmental Health , Boston University School of Public Health , Boston , MA , USA.
f Research Service, VA Boston Healthcare System , Boston , MA , USA.
g Pulmonary, Allergy, Sleep, and Critical Care Medicine Section , Medical Service, VA Boston Healthcare System , Boston , MA , USA.
h Channing Division of Network Medicine , Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School , Boston , MA , USA.

Erratum in


Satellite imaging has emerged as a method for monitoring regional air pollution and detecting areas of high dust concentrations. Unlike ground observations, continuous data monitoring is available with global coverage of terrestrial and atmospheric components. In this study we test the utility of different sources of satellite data to assess air pollution concentrations in Iraq. SeaWiFS and MODIS Deep Blue (DB) aerosol optical depth (AOD) products were evaluated and used to characterize the spatial and temporal pollution levels from the late 1990s through 2010. The AOD and Ångström exponent (an indicator of particle size, since smaller Ångström exponent values reflect a source that includes larger particles) were correlated on 50 × 50 km spatial resolution. Generally, AOD and Ångström exponent were inversely correlated, suggesting a significant contribution of coarse particles from dust storms to AOD maxima. Although the majority of grid cells exhibited this trend, a weaker relationship in other locations suggested an additional contribution of fine particles from anthropogenic sources. Tropospheric NO2 densities from the OMI satellite were elevated over cities, also consistent with a contribution from anthropogenic sources. Our analysis demonstrates the use of satellite imaging data to estimate relative pollution levels and source contributions in areas of the world where direct measurements are not available.


The authors demonstrated how satellite data can be used to characterize exposures to dust and to anthropogenic pollution for future health related studies. This approach is of a great potential to investigate the associations between subject-specific exposures to different pollution sources and their health effects in inaccessible regions and areas where ground monitoring is unavailable.

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