Particulate Matter


European air quality information service (Source: ESA, INERIS, DLR, Meteo-France, RIU)



Component products

Air Quality


  • N/A



  • Environmental monitoring – Continuous monitoring of changes throughout the lifecycle

Geo-information requirements

  • Air quality and emissions



This product estimates the Particulate Matter (PM) concentration at ground in μg/m3. Particulate matter (PM or aerosols) is an important component of air pollution. Particulate matter assessment is of major concern around the world and many environmental protection agencies are working towards continuous monitoring and assessment of air pollution from surface based stations.

The increase in the capabilities of Earth observation satellites in remote sensing retrieval of gas phase pollutants can, in fact, provide very useful information for improving estimates of spatial distribution and transport of PM. This is because aerosols interfere with the measurement of gas phase pollutants and all missions designed to retrieve gas phase concentrations must also estimate the aerosol contribution to the observation.  In so doing, the aerosol concentration is determined. 

Satellite data can be used to map over large areas aerosol optical thickness (AOT) and Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) which represents integrated atmospheric columnar loading of aerosols, especially when surface measurements are not available. Satellite based studies indicate that AOT and AOD data can be used to monitor PM2.5 pollution over global areas on a near daily basis. Many satellite missions have been launched to measure aerosols. Clouds and the interactions among these.  Such missions as POLDER, CALIPSO and the MODIS series have given extensive information about both size and vertical distributions of aerosols.  This activity is driven by the need to understand the indirect aerosol effect, in whereby clouds nucleated by aerosols modify the tropospheric radiative balance in large and unpredictable ways. 

Known restrictions / limitations

Satellite assessments of particulate matter (PM) air quality that use solar reflectance methods (optical sensors) are dependent on availability of clear sky; This means that mass concentrations of PM less than 2.5 microm in aerodynamic diameter (PM2.5) cannot be estimated from satellite observations under cloudy conditions or bright surfaces such as snow/ice. LiDAR and radar sensors (e.g. CALIPSO, CLOUDSAT), however, are very effective for these cases.

Lifecycle stage and demand











Development & Production:

  • Information to minimise the amount of emissions, and gas flared or vented to the environment.
  • Information to monitor impacts on the environment and highlight good and bad performers.

Geographic coverage and demand

Global over oceans, nearly global over land.

Challenges Addressed

OTM:021 Air quality (emissions) monitoring


HC:4106 Air quality monitoring on an airshed and site specific basis

HC:4305 Monitoring air quality related to seasonal fires


Input data sources

Terra & Aqua MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectro Radiometer)

Note: For this product Boundary Layer data and PM ground data are necessary.  Radar and LiDAR measurements, however, do not require surface measurements.

Supporting data:

  • Atmospheric Boundary Layer (ABL) estimated from models
  • Relative Humidity (RH) from models or station data
  • Ground station data for PM concentration

Spatial resolution and coverage

Spatial resolution: 10 to 20 km pixel size

Coverage: The coverage depends on the EO data used for the production. A-Train satellites (MODIS, CALIPSO and CLOUDSAT) have global coverage.

Minimum Mapping Unit (MMU)


Accuracy / constraints

Thematic accuracy: N/A

Spatial accuracy: N/A

Accuracy assessment approach & quality control measures

In all particulate matter emission retrieval programs, ground measurement sites play a critical role in evaluating satellite data and retrieval models; targeted aircraft campaigns can also provide verification and better understanding of source regions.

Frequency / timeliness

Observation frequency: A-Train satellites have near daily global coverage; 8 to 9 days nearly cloud free composites

Timeliness of deliverable: Following model development and calibration, products are made available immediately.


If freely available or commercially acquired is depending on the selected sensor.

Delivery / output format

Data type:

  • Vector formats

Format by sensor:

MODIS: HDF4 file

Download product sheet. 


Lead Author:GeoVille
Peer Reviewer:Hatfield Consultants


Maria Lemper, Jan Militzer

Document Title:

Particulate Matter

# of Pages:



Internal – Project consortium and science partners


External – ESA



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