Japan plans launch of smog observation satellite

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is considering building and launching a geostationary satellite to observe, around the clock, air pollution coming to Japan from China and other East Asian countries, local media reported.

The satellite's purpose is to find sources of air pollutants, including exhaust gas, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide emitted from factories. It will utilize the information it gathers to issue early-stage photochemical smog warnings.

The satellite would be the first in the world to monitor such information on a 24-hour basis. The agency is considering launching the satellite in 2014 at the earliest.

There are many types of cross-border pollution, including acid rain, yellow dust and photochemical smog.

Last year, photochemical smog warnings were issued in a record 28 prefectures, including Oita and Niigata, where such warnings had never before been issued. Photochemical smog can cause health problems such as sore throats and eye irritation.

A panel special to the Japanese Environment Ministry compiled a report at the end of the year on the increase in photochemical oxidant, which causes the smog. The report stated that the oxidant was caused partly by pollutants from China and other East Asian countries.

Satellite air pollution observation has been conducted by European countries and the US since the late 1990s.