Canadian Scientist Presents Unique Pollution Observations

Press Release From: Canadian Space Agency
Posted: Wednesday, May 30, 2001

Saint-Hubert, May 30, 2001 - University of Toronto Professor James Drummond, Principal Investigator for the Canadian Space Agency's MOPITT (Measurements of Pollution in the Troposphere) instrument, unveiled unique new data on global air pollution during a press briefing today at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in Boston, Massachusetts. "Atmospheric pollution is a very important issue for our society, and understanding where it comes from, how it is transported and where it is destroyed is very significant for anyone studying the subject," said Dr. Drummond.

The MOPITT instrument, built by COM DEV International of Cambridge, Ontario, was launched in December 1999 on board NASA's Terra satellite as part of an international Earth observation mission involving the United States, Canada and Japan.

"The MOPITT project is a prime example of how Canadian innovation in space science and technology is leading to important discoveries concerning atmospheric pollution and its effects on our environment," said Mac Evans, President of the Canadian Space Agency.

MOPITT is designed to track two pollutants, carbon monoxide and methane, from space. It has completed a year of data collection and is providing our first view of the global distribution of these pollutants. Using modeling and animation, a movie can be produced showing the transport of pollution around the globe. We can see large production regions around the equator, associated with grass and forest fires, transport over vast distances across the oceans, from Africa to South America, from South America to Southern Africa and then on to Australia. In the Northern Hemisphere we can see sources from forest fires, such as the ones in North America last summer, and industrial activity flowing around the globe.

"Scientists are excited about this new view of atmospheric conditions," added Dr. Drummond. "This is the first time we have had this birds-eye view of the movement of pollution on our planet. We have to do a lot of work to understand what we are seeing and to translate this into a practical way of limiting the effects on such a large scale."

The MOPITT data are being studied by an international team of scientists. Among these are students and scientists at the University of Toronto, who are studying the accuracy of the data from MOPITT using instrumentation around the world. Toronto students have worked in Argentina, Russia and South Africa gathering additional data. Scientists are also looking at the production of carbon monoxide from forest fires in Canada in the summer of 2000.

Animations and images of the first results from MOPITT are available at:

About the Canadian Space Agency
Established in 1989 with its headquarters situated in Saint-Hubert, Quebec, the Canadian Space Agency coordinates all aspects of the Canadian Space Program. Through its Space Knowledge, Applications and Industry Development business line, the CSA delivers services involving: Earth and the Environment; Space Science; Human Presence in Space; Satellite Communications; Generic Space Technologies; Space Qualification Services and Awareness. The Canadian Space Agency is at the forefront of the development and application of space knowledge for the benefit of Canadians and humanity.

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MOPITT background information:

For more information:
CSA Media Relations Office
Canadian Space Agency
Telephone: (450) 926-4345 or 4370
Fax: (514) 943-4352
Web site:

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