NUI Galway launches hourly air pollution forecast service

27 Nov 2013

A new hourly air pollution forecast service by NUI Galway aims to help advise the public and industry of imminent and dangerous pollution levels.

High pollution levels can exasperate health problems, particularly those associated with heart and lung conditions.

The forecast service is also being refined to predict the dispersion of volcanic ash arising from active volcanoes and advise the aviation industry. Volcanic ash can interfere with an aircraft engine and thus prevent air travel.

In addition, the service is also being developed to assess the effects of air pollution on climate change.

It’s all happening as a result of work by NUI Galway’s Centre for Climate & Air Pollution Studies (C-CAPS) at the Ryan Institute, in collaboration with Met Éireann and the Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC).

Met Éireann provided NUI Galway with meteorological support to develop the air quality forecasting capacity, which has been produced via the supercomputing services of ICHEC.

The service, which is available online under the ‘Air Quality Forecasts’ menu bar, will mainly forecast levels of ozone, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and particulate matter.

Colin Dowd, professor in the School of Physics at NUI Galway and director of the Ryan Institute’s Centre for Climate and Air Pollution Studies, said Ireland’s location on the western boundary of Europe means it generally experiences better air quality than other European countries and pollutant levels are typically below the level prescribed by the EU.

“However, even in Ireland, meeting the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, which are more conservative than the current EU regulatory limits, remains a challenge,” Dowd said. “Given the lower WHO limits, the need for forecasts informing potential exposure levels and risks is pressing.”

The air pollution forecast service is continually under development to improve its predictions for the Irish environment, to implement improved and higher-resolution emissions inventories as they become available, and to implement the most up-to-date pollution evolution modules.

Air pollution image via Shutterstock

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic