June 14, 2008

International: Air Quality Services in Europe

Since I will be moving to Malaysia next month, my new role at the Smog Blog is 'foreign correspondent.' I'll likely be covering Asia air quality most often, since it sometimes has an impact on the U.S. and I'll be located in the region.

However, this week I am in Copenhagen, Denmark attending a workshop on air quality services in Europe. Specifically, an end users workshop as part of a European Space Agency-sponsored project called PROtocol MOniToring for the GMES Service Element: Atmosphere. PROMOTE is part of ESA's focus on applications of ESA satellite data and tools to atmospheric issues, including air quality, UV exposure, climate change, ozone layer, and aviation.

One interesting fact I learned is that Europe is focused on ozone and particulate matter like the U.S., but also NO2, especially as it affects urban areas. Europe has over 2,000 NO2 ground-based monitors. Below is the NO2 product from the OMI satellite sensor, as developed by KNMI (image from the PROMOTE portal but the original source is TEMIS).

There are several sites to get European ground-based air quality information. For example, the workshop I attended was held at the European Environment Agency who produces a near real-time map of ozone pollution across Europe. The Air Quality Now site has air quality values for select cities. There is even a site (airTEXT) that forecasts street level pollutant concentrations in London and provides SMS instant messages when the forecasts will be high. I think the biggest challenge in Europe for reporting on air quality is that monitoring is extensive and sophisticated but communication is decentralized and not consistent between member states of the European Union.

Another site of note is the EURAD Project at the Rhenish Institute for Environmental Research. They forecast ozone, NO2, PM10, SO2, CO, and benzene. Below left is their ozone forecast for Europe today. But what I really like is the perspective of their northern hemisphere forecasts, which include the U.S., Asia, and Europe. On the right is their northern hemisphere forecast for daily mean PM10 today.

For the future, ESA is planning the GMES Sentinel satellites, that will be launched not for research but specifically for applications to issues on Earth. Sentinels 4 and 5 will be for atmospheric applications. In the meantime, here's how northern Europe looks from MODIS today. I hope we may partner more closely with our European air quality and Earth observing satellite colleagues in the future.

Posted by Jill Engel-Cox at June 14, 2008 1:07 PM
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