[ music ] [ music ] Has pollen got you sneezing? Wondering where that mysterious afternoon haze is coming from? How do you find out what’s in the air you’re breathing? For thousands of people each day, the answer’s clear… … even if the air is not. Just a web click away, it’s the Smog Blog. [ Ray Hoff: ] “The Smog Blog is a daily diary of pollution in the United States. We have students looking at air pollution across the country from NASA and NOAA assets, to tell public forecasters what’s going on in the country.” And the Smog Blog is not just for weather forecasters. Average Joes with hay fever, asthma, heart problems – and those with just a healthy curiosity about what’s in the air, read the blog to get up-to-date, understandable air quality information. The NASA-funded team, led by physicist Ray Hoff, gathers ground information from their home base at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. First, they get a real-time view of current air quality by using high-tech instruments – like the sun photometer, which measures the thickness of the pollution layer… … and a laser-shooting instrument called LIDAR. It’s similar to radar but it uses light instead of microwaves, bouncing a laser beam off of airborne particles to gauge the amount and kinds of pollutants. [ Ray Hoff: ] “The human respiratory system is designed so that most of the big particles are all taken out in your nose. They come out in your nasal passages. So particles that are smaller than two and a half microns in size, those particles get deep into the lungs. And so if you have respiratory problems like asthma, or if you have cardiopulmonary problems like you’re predisposed to having high blood pressure and you could have a heart attack, those are the particles that we worry the most about.” While the ground-based gear gets and accurate picture of what’s happening today, it doesn’t let the Smog Bloggers see into the future. For that, they turn to NASA satellites. Global satellite imagery lets the Smog Bloggers spot incoming particulate matter traveling aloft on air currents, like smoke from forest fires. [ Ray Hoff: ] “In the West, because of the predominance of forest fires – West and Canada, you’ll see alot of smoke in the West in our blog posts and the kind of iconic pictures that came of the California fires that were shown on CNN over and over again, the public really latches onto the fact that satellites can tell them what’s going at a day-to-day basis when they see these large events happening.” So far, the Smog Blog’s had over twenty million hits. Followers can watch pollution travel around the world from coal-fired plants, desert sandstorms, even volcanic eruptions. And for the students who blog? More even than a lesson in science, it’s a chance to connect directly the people their research helps most. [ Ray Hoff: ] When you can put together a real-world application at the end of it that why it’s important that you’re doing this, it’s alot easier for you to go to class say, ‘Okay, I’ll put up with having to do those equations because I know why I’m doing it.'” [ Patricia: ] “Okay, that’s it.” [Jamie] “Alright, that’s it.” [Patricia:] “Good job.” [Jamie:] Awesome, great.”