High air pollution warning in London

The London Mayor’s first high air pollution warning of 2015 was issued this morning (March 17) and was aimed at residents and workers in the UK capital.

According to the London.gov.uk website’s pollution forecast for today, London “currently has high levels of air pollution” and adults and children with lung problems and adults with heart problems are advised to “reduce strenuous physical exertion, particularly outdoors or if they experience symptoms”.

Photo of London Eye taken from Soutbank 10.20am March 17 2015

Photo of London Eye taken from Soutbank 10.20am March 17 2015

As well as issuing the standard government advice for pollution episodes, the Mayor’s website also includes general advice and tips to help protect Londoners, such as car sharing and switching off car engines when not in use.

Earlier this year the Mayor, Boris Johnson, launched his ‘Breathe Better Together’ campaign, which seeks to raise awareness about air quality through posters and radio adverts and to encourage walking and cycling on less-polluted routes (see airqualitynews.com story).

In addition, the campaign also encourages Londoners to sign up to receive air pollution alerts on their mobile phones via the free service airTEXT, which issued Londoners with the high air pollution warning for today (March 17).

Simon Birkett, founder and director of campaign group Clean Air in London, congratulated the Mayor for issuing the warning, although he added that alerts should be issued “before the news cycle rather than after it begins and tweeting then himself to 1.2m followers”.

He also reiterated the government’s health advice promoted by the Mayor that anyone experiencing discomfort should consider reducing activity, particularly outdoor, while at-risk individuals should take extra care.

Mr Birkett said: “Well done Boris for issuing his first high air pollution warning since launching his Breathe Better Together campaign on 30 January this year.

“This episode, the third of the year so far, is being caused by collapsing wind speeds and a change in wind direction that is bringing in air from the continent that has passed over heavily urbanised and industrialised areas. Easterly winds look set to worsen the problem for West London as it gets smothered in everyone’s air pollution. Air pollution monitors across London are expected to report HIGH particle levels at roadside and perhaps some background locations later today.”

Wind speeds turning northerly tonigh are expected to bring relief to the situation.

King’s College

The London Air website, run by King’s College London to provide air quality forecasts and ‘nowcasts’, yesterday (March 16) forecasted moderate levels of air pollution across the capital due to a slight change in the high pressure system in Europe taking air on a more southerly path through more urban and industrial areas.

The London Air website forecast states that wind speeds “will also ease allowing local emissions to add to any imported pollution”, adding that these low winds will “also allow the build-up of nitrogen dioxide and ‘moderate’ is likely at busy roadside locations particularly during the morning rush hour”.

Furthermore, it adds that there is a chance of moderate particulate at all locations, although this is “more likely at roadside locations where there may be a chance of ‘high’”.

However, the KCL forecast expects nitrogen dioxide, ozone and sulphur dioxide levels to remain low at background locations throughout the period.

National forecast

Nationally, Defra and Met Office pollution monitoring is showing only low and moderate levels of air pollution in the UK today and for the rest of the week.

Photo of London Eye taken from Soutbank 10.20am March 17 2015

Photo of London Eye taken from Soutbank 10.20am March 17 2015

According to the Defra forecast for today, due to “slack flow from the continent”, air pollution is expected to be moderate at times over southeast England and parts of East Anglia. In addition, locally sourced pockets of moderate air pollution are also expected over parts of east and northeast England due to light winds.

In the rest of the UK, pollution levels are forecasted to be low both today and tomorrow, although the forecast states that moderate air pollution is “possible over south Wales, central and northern England, and Southeast Scotland”.

However, the Met Office explains on its website that its forecast – which is based on the information from Defra’s monitoring network – “does not represent the very localised increases in pollution that one might find close to roads in the urban environment” and instead “represents the background and regional air quality away from these strong sources of pollution”.

This, the website states, is because the Met Office model “uses average emission maps and has grid boxes which are large compared to the road widths”.

Related Links:

Breathe Better Together