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[BANGALORE] Despite the wealth of data about the composition and movement of aerosols over South Asia, the region does not yet have a model that can accurately predict how and where they spread, experts say.

The absence of a good predictive regional model is partly due to lack of data integration, A N V Sathyanarayana, associate professor at the centre for oceans, rivers, atmosphere and land sciences, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur, tells SciDev.Net.  He was attending a session on aerosols at the annual meeting of the International Biosphere Geosphere Programme (IGBP), in Bangalore, last month (7 April).

The IGBP is a research programme that studies the earth's physical, chemical and biological processes and its interaction with human systems.

“Different measurements need to be integrated under a common system of parameters so that they can be validated. Otherwise, amassing data may not be of much use,” he says.

Raghav Murthy, director, earth observation systems, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), says that as a way forward, India is setting up its first integrated network that will pool different data sets on aerosols for analysis on a larger scale.

Also needed is enhanced dialogue between experts in different disciplines, such as geologists, physicians and epidemiologists, says K. Krishnamoorthy, director of ISRO's space physics laboratory.

Such integrated information could be put to varied uses, such as pre-empting seasonal illnesses spread by bio aerosols (carrying bacteria or viruses); or flight disruptions, he says.

Another example is improved understanding of the impact of farming practices on pollution. Priya Shamsundar, program director at the non government organisation South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics (SANDEE), says information on seasonal movements of aerosols would help understand whether periodic crop burning — which some farmers in India and Nepal do to hasten the next round of sowing for an additional crop — impacts the local atmosphere.

V. Vinoj, assistant professor at the school of earth, ocean and climate sciences, IIT, Bhubaneshwar, says that predicting aerosol movement is a complex problem the world over. Models developed in advanced countries may not be suited for South Asia as they are based on measurements and projections made in the west, he says.

“Prediction of air pollution (for example) is good provided we have accurate data of the amount of pollutants released by us into the atmosphere. In India, we do not have accurate data on the kind of smoke and pollutants emitted by various vehicles in the country,” observes Jayaraman Srinivasan, chairman of the Divecha Centre for Climate Change, the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's South Asia desk.