London’s biggest ever air monitoring exercise underway

Scientists taking part in London’s biggest ever air quality monitoring exercise say they are hoping that improvements in air quality will be a part of the legacy left behind by the Olympic Games.

Meteorologists from Universities including Reading, Manchester, Birmingham, York, Leeds, Hertfordshire, East Anglia, Leicester involved in the three-year Clean Air for London project, are monitoring ozone and particulate levels throughout the Games.

Scientists behind London’s largest ever air quality monitoring programme say they hope that air quality improvements are part of the Olympic Games legacy

As part of the monitoring exercise, which runs until August 17, six shipping containers worth of equipment have been set up in the playground of a North Kensington school to monitor pollutants.

Equipment on the top of the BT Tower is also taking above ground air quality measurements and mapping air flow, moisture and chemistry to see the effect they have on air pollution at street level.


The study is taking place to assess the impact of major traffic changes on air pollution.

Dr Janet Barlow, Reader in Urban Meteorology at Reading University, said: “The current sunny weather is a welcome departure from all the rain we’ve been having, but it brings with it its own problems. Met Office pollution forecasts are showing smog in London this week will be the worst it has been since May.

“Levels of ozone are forecast to exceed European and Defra safety thresholds – the threshold value for protection of human health, beyond which Defra advises adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart problems, who experience symptoms, to consider reducing strenuous physical activity, particularly outdoors.

“One of the aims of the ClearFlo project is to be able to provide more accurate air pollution forecasts in the future, with less uncertainty about forecast pollution levels and information available for individual neighbourhoods, rather than just regions.”

London’s air quality has been under the spotlight following fears that it could affect the performance of athletes competing in areas with high pollution. The city was hit by an ozone episode on the eve of the Olympics, its worst for six years, although subsequent cool weather has seen air quality improve (see story).

Dr Barlow said: “London is such a busy city that it’s not often that we get a chance to measure the effect of major changes to traffic patterns on air pollution.

“It would be wonderful if our work this summer contributed to cleaner air for millions of Londoners. That would be an Olympic legacy to really be proud of.”

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Clean Air for London