Evaluating TROPOMI and MODIS performance to capture the dynamic of air pollution in São Paulo state: A case study during the COVID-19 outbreak

A. P. Rudke, J. A. Martins, R. Hallak, L. D. Martins, D. S. de Almeida, A. Beal, E. D. Freitas, M. F. Andrade, P. Koutrakis, T. T.A. Albuquerque

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11 Scopus citations


Atmospheric pollutant data retrieved through satellite sensors are continually used to assess changes in air quality in the lower atmosphere. During the COVID-19 pandemic, several studies started to use satellite measurements to evaluate changes in air quality in many different regions worldwide. However, although satellite data is continuously validated, it is known that its accuracy may vary between monitored areas, requiring regionalized quality assessments. Thus, this study aimed to evaluate whether satellites could measure changes in the air quality of the state of São Paulo, Brazil, during the COVID-19 outbreak; and to verify the relationship between satellite-based data [Tropospheric NO2 column density and Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD)] and ground-based concentrations [NO2 and particulate material (PM; coarse: PM10 and fine: PM2.5)]. For this purpose, tropospheric NO2 obtained from the TROPOMI sensor and AOD retrieved from MODIS sensor data by using the Multi-Angle Implementation of Atmospheric Correction (MAIAC) algorithm were compared with concentrations obtained from 50 automatic ground monitoring stations. The results showed low correlations between PM and AOD. For PM10, most stations showed correlations lower than 0.2, which were not significant. The results for PM2.5 were similar, but some stations showed good correlations for specific periods (before or during the COVID-19 outbreak). Satellite-based Tropospheric NO2 proved to be a good predictor for NO2 concentrations at ground level. Considering all stations with NO2 measurements, correlations >0.6 were observed, reaching 0.8 for specific stations and periods. In general, it was observed that regions with a more industrialized profile had the best correlations, in contrast with rural areas. In addition, it was observed about 57% reductions in tropospheric NO2 throughout the state of São Paulo during the COVID-19 outbreak. Variations in air pollutants were linked to the region economic vocation, since there were reductions in industrialized areas (at least 50% of the industrialized areas showed >20% decrease in NO2) and increases in areas with farming and livestock characteristics (about 70% of those areas showed increase in NO2). Our results demonstrate that Tropospheric NO2 column densities can serve as good predictors of NO2 concentrations at ground level. For MAIAC-AOD, a weak relationship was observed, requiring the evaluation of other possible predictors to describe the relationship with PM. Thus, it is concluded that regionalized assessment of satellite data accuracy is essential for assertive estimates on a regional/local level. Good quality information retrieved at specific polluted areas does not assure a worldwide use of remote sensor data.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113514
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
StatePublished - 1 May 2023
Externally publishedYes

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  • AOD
  • Air quality
  • NO monitoring
  • Particulate matter monitoring
  • Sentinel-5P


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