Copernicus and air quality: The Sentinel-5P instrument

Copernicus, previously known as Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES), is the European Union’s Earth observation (EO) programme. It is served by a set of dedicated satellites from the Sentinel family developed by the European Space Agency (ESA). The purpose of Copernicus is to provide information and services for the benefit of European citizens from satellites and in-situ collection points by monitoring the planet and the environment. Today we’ll be taking a look at the Sentinel-5P, the first Copernicus mission dedicated to monitoring our atmosphere and global air quality. 

What is Sentinel-5P?

The Sentinel-5 Precursor (otherwise known as the Sentinel-5P) is the forerunner to the Sentinel-5 satellite that is set to be launched in 2021. Taken into orbit in 2017, the Sentinel-5P carries the TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI) on board to assist with its measurement of trace gases and aerosols in the troposphere that affect air quality and the climate. TROPOMI is capable of measuring ultraviolet and visible (270-500 nm), near-infrared (675-775 nm), and shortwave infrared (2305-2385 nm) wavelengths. This allows the instrument to monitor a wide range of pollutants such as carbon monoxide (CO), formaldehyde (CH2O/H2CO), methane (CH4), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3), and sulphur dioxide (SO2) as well as climate and ozone/surface UV applications. With a swath width of 2600 km and a resolution of 7 km x 3.5 km, TOPOMI is able to both map the entire planet daily as well as measure the air quality levels of individual cities.

Wavelength (nm) Air Pollutant Measured
Ultraviolet-Visible (270-500 nm) Ozone (O3), Formaldehyde (CH2O/H2CO), Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), Sulphur dioxide (SO2)
Near-Infrared (675-775 nm) Methane (CH4)
Shortwave-Infrared (2305-2385 nm) Carbon monoxide (CO), Methane (CH4)

How is Sentinel-5P being used to improve air quality?

The data gathered daily from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission is used to create global air pollution maps, follow climate trends, monitor volcanic ash for health and safety, warn citizens of high levels of UV radiation, and to track the formation of holes in the ozone layer. By providing images of pollutants in a higher resolution than ever seen before, governments and scientists will be able to implement accurate and appropriate mitigation policies for the benefit of European citizens. Not only this, the greenhouse gases, aerosols, and clouds measured by the Sentinel-5P are helping to improve knowledge of the important atmospheric processes that are linked to our climate, which are also exacerbated by air pollution. For more information and the latest news on findings from the Sentinel-5P, please click here.

In addition, the Sentinel-5P contributes to the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), which provides aggregated information on worldwide air pollution, health, solar energy, greenhouse gases, and climate forcing. This data is free and provided for all interested parties, including policy makers, businesses, and individuals, although it can be hard to use due to the huge amounts of data provided in purely technical formats.

This is why Breeze Technologies provides CAMS data through the Environmental Intelligence Cloud. Breeze’s customers not only have access to hyperlocal air quality data from their air quality sensors, but also to regional and global CAMS earth observation data that provides additional context to the collected local datasets. To find out more, please visit our urban air quality solution here.