Air Quality

Carbon Monoxide

Image courtesy NASA

You are an outdoor sports event planner. Your facility has a soccer, football, ice hockey, and basketball league. You want to choose the best times of the year for outdoor and indoor sports activities. Use the data to make an informed decision about the best times of the year to plan your events.
Grade Level: 3 – 5
Estimated Time for Completing Activity: 1 Hour
Learning Outcomes:
  • Students will observe Air Quality-Carbon Monoxide Data
  • Students will evaluate changes in air quality over a one year time frame
  • Students will draw conclusions about air quality based on observing quantitative line graphs.
  • Students will infer times of the year that air quality is best for a given location
  • Students will manipulate data sets from MyNASAData website
  • Knowledge of longitude and latitude
  • Knowledge of reading a line graph
  • Knowledge of continent names
National Standards:
  • Science Content: C Life Science
  • Science Content: E Science and Technology
  • Science Content: F Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
  • Science Content: G History and Nature of Science
Virginia Standards of Learning:
  • Sci3.8: The student will investigate and understand basic patterns and cycles occurring in nature. Key concepts include patterns of natural events (day and night, seasonal changes, phases of the moon, and tides), and animal and plant life cycles.
  • Sci3.10: The student will investigate and understand that natural events and human influences can affect the survival of species. Key concepts include the interdependency of plants and animals, the effects of human activity on the quality of air, water, and habitat, the effects of fire, flood, disease, and erosion on organisms, and conservation and resource renewal.
  • Sci4.5: The student will investigate and understand how plants and animals in an ecosystem interact with one another and the nonliving environment.
Lesson Links:

Carbon Monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and dangerous gas. It can be found in varying amounts around the world in the air we breathe. Carbon monoxide is created during combustion: from burning coal and other fossil fuels, burning crop wastes, wildfires, etc.

Carbon Monoxide is dangerous because, if enough is inhaled, it prevents your heart, lungs, and other organs from getting the oxygen they need in order to keep your body alive.

Although you cannot see or smell carbon monoxide, this poisonous gas is a major air pollutant in many American cities. Carbon monoxide forms when carbon in fuel doesn’t burn completely (incomplete combustion). The main source of carbon monoxide in our air is vehicle emissions. As much as 95 percent of the carbon monoxide in typical U.S. cities comes from mobile sources, according to EPA studies.
According to the EPA Carbon monoxide is harmful because it reduces oxygen delivery to the body’s organs and tissues. It is most harmful to those who suffer from heart and respiratory disease. High carbon monoxide pollution levels also affect healthy people. Symptoms may include visual impairment, headache, and reduced work capacity. Unlike many other air pollutants, carbon monoxide levels in the outside air typically peak during colder months


1. Using an atlas or online tool (lesson link section), find the latitude and longitude of your city.
2. Open MyNASAData (lesson link section).
3. Click on +Data Access
4. Click on +Live Access Server (Basic Edition)
5. Under Select Data Set, click on Air Quality- Carbon Monoxide
6. Under Dataset Variable(s), select Air Quality- Carbon Monoxide
7. Click on the red Next button
8. Check that the following options are selected:
View: Graph vs time
Output: graph output
Region: World

Next to the map, you will notice a place for you to choose latitude and longitude values.
Type in the latitude and longitude values for your city.

Time range: 15 January 2004 to 15 December 2004

9. Click the red Next. A line graph should appear.


When was the level of carbon monoxide highest?

During which time frame (months) would be the safest time to play outdoors sports?

During which time frame (months) would you suggest playing indoor sports?

-Create a year planner. For each month, schedule the sports you think are most appropriate for those time frames. After your planner is complete, justify your choices.


Open the same time frame, January through December of several different years. What generalization can you make about the safest time to play outdoors?

Are there differences between the graphs from different years? If so, what are they?

What other factors might be important to consider in scheduling outdoor sports? Explore the LAS to find at least one more thing that might be important, and explain whether that might change your proposed sports schedule.

Lesson plan contributed by Rebecca Schnekser, MY NASA DATA Team

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