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Ultraviolet B (UVB) has high biological importance, but its geographic distribution is not well understood. UVB is needed for making vitamin D, which is associated with lower incidence rates of some cancers, but may have adverse effects. Ultraviolet A (UVA) may play a role in melanoma. Using GIS data on ozone and UV from the NASA TOMS satellites and USDA ground network of UV measuring stations were combined with air pollution data from satellite sensors and cloud cover data from the World Meteorological Organization to produce comprehensive world maps of UVA and UVB.
The geographic distributions of UVA and UVB were different. UVB was predominant within 35 degrees of the equator and in rural areas, while UVA intensity was higher over a much broader band of latitudes and in urban and polluted environments. GIS provided an essential tool for the creation of a comprehensive atlas of UV radiation.