Europeans launch mega campaign to assess air pollution
Environmentalists are taking a bite out of pollution thanks to one of the largest monitoring campaigns ever launched in Europe. A total of 20 research teams from across Europe have set up sites in Île-de-France (a region containing the Paris metropolitan area) to investigate sources of particulate pollution in the urban environment. Their objective is to quantify and describe these sources using diverse methods such as ground-based observations at permanent sites or from mobile platforms.
The campaign is being carried out as part of the EU-funded MEGAPOLI ('Megacities: emissions, urban, regional and global atmospheric pollution and climate effects, and integrated tools for assessment and mitigation') project. With EUR 3.4 million in funding, MEGAPOLI is supported under the Environment (including climate change) Theme of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
MEGAPOLI is coordinated by the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI) and involves 22 partners from 12 European countries including the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Italy, Switzerland and the UK.
The researchers from two laboratories operated by L'Institut national des sciences de l'Univers (INSU) and Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) say large conurbations (metropolitan areas) are being affected by particulate pollution, with air quality and human health bearing the brunt of the problem. Particulate pollution also impacts the climate on global and regional fronts.
But the challenge is determining and quantifying the sources of carbon particulates, which make up a large fraction of fine aerosols. The researchers believe this type of pollution and its affect on people's health can be reduced if we succeed in fuelling our understanding of its sources.
The project partners describe both primary and secondary sources. Primary sources are direct emissions, generated by combustion processes that are not well quantified; secondary sources are particulates formed after the oxidation and condensation of initially volatile organic compounds.
The researchers selected Île-de-France as the location for the study because it has a rather high pollution load and a high population density; it also exemplifies conurbations in the temperate latitudes.
Various tools are being used to obtain a wide spectrum of data. Ground-based observations are being carried out at three sites, including the Paris Hygiene Laboratory. Also, researchers based at SIRTA (Site Instrumental de Recherche par Télédétection Atmosphérique) of Institut Pierre Simon Laplace (IPSL) are sampling air masses exposed to pollution in the Paris conurbation.
The researchers are also making use of mobile monitoring: vans will carry equipment that can measure the extent of the 'pollution plume' (degraded water in streams or aquifers) in several locations throughout the region and determine the pollution load of air masses entering Île-de-France.
Airborne observations are also being conducted to assess how secondary organic aerosols (suspensions of fine particles in the atmosphere) are formed in the urban plume, and a tethered balloon will be used to evaluate the vertical homogeneity of the pollution.
With this barrage of tools and instruments, the researchers will be able to secure a detailed physical and chemical characterisation of particulate pollution (such as volatility and the size distribution of aerosols) in one of the region's most important metropolitan areas. The results of the study will enable researchers to further assess and revamp existing models used for forecasting and simulation of air pollution in the short and long terms.
The researchers expect to launch another field campaign in late 2009, early 2010. Participating in the study are researchers from Finland, France, Germany, Greece and Switzerland.
Data Source Provider: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)
Document Reference: Based on information from Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)
Subject Index: Climate change & Carbon cycle research; Coordination, Cooperation; Earth Sciences; Environmental Protection; Meteorology; Scientific Research