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Learning about Air Quality: 3 (Future)


This self-learning tutorial is intended to help you learn about the determinants of air quality, using UK examples of actual air quality data, and to give some guidance as to the understanding of these data. It also provides some indication of why an understanding of air quality is important for Environmental Health, i.e. the implications for human health

This tutorial is meant to complement other forms of learning about this subject area, and there are three parts to this: 

You should try coming back at different times of the year to gain the most benefit out of this part of the tutorial series. If, on returning to this page, you find that the images are out of date, please exit from this page, clear the memory in your cache, avoid using an external cache, and then return to this page - the latest available images should then load. 

3. Learning from the Future

This tutorial supplements tutorials 1 and 2 (see above) by enabling you to learn from tomorrow's Air Quality. It therefore has the following learning objectives: 
  • To achieve an understanding of the relationships between air quality, and meteorological conditions
  • To be able to relate current air quality parameters to a forecast of air quality for the following day

Tomorrow's air quality:

Be guided by what you have learnt so far, in tutorials 1 and 2. Then consider the factors which are likely to make tomorrow's air quality different from today's: 

Are tomorrow's emissions at your location, or the locations about which you are interested, likely to be more or less than today's e.g if you are interested in an urban area - is traffic likely to be higher or lower? 

Now consider tomorrow's weather conditions - are they likely to favour high, or low concentrations? You may access a 24 hour weather forecast from the Met Office. Unfortunately  the Met Office is somewhat limited in its free on-line information, since you may be particularly interested in more detail in the wind conditions in a particular locality. You may wish to look at a better UK weather map instead . Such an image would show the wind speed and direction, temperature, and isobars etc forecast for the British Isles. You may look one up in today's newspaper or try to access one online. 

  • If the windspeeds in the weather forecast are low, then this may favour poorer air quality generally i.e. from a number of pollutants.(Bearing in mind that high winds tend to disperse pollution, whereas in still conditions pollutants will tend to accumulate)
  • Heavy rain may help clear some pollutants. 
  • If sunlight is substantial, secondary pollution specifically caused by ozone, might be a feature.

Now comes the opportunity to match your UK Air Quality predictions for tomorrow with the official version. (But first you may need to remind yourself about Air Quality Bands for data from the UK Dept of the Environment etc.) 

The accompanying image shows Tomorrow's Air Quality Forecast for the UK. How does it compare with your expectations? The chances are that the quality will be labelled as 'Very Good', but if it is not, can you find an explanation? 

To recapitulate...

  • Emissions of primary pollutants might be high, because of traffic, or other sources of combustion of a localised nature. 
  • If sunlight is substantial, secondary pollution caused by ozone, might be a feature. 
  • If the windspeeds in the weather forecast are low, then this may favour poorer air quality. 

Beyond tomorrow's air quality: 

  • Remember to come back to this site again, at other times, when air quality is likely to be different from today. 
  • In summer if the day is sunny and relatively warm, still and hazy - conditions favouring a summer photochemical smog - gather information about the weather, then return to this or the previous resource, and see what the pollution is like.
  • In winter if the weather is cold and relatively still, foggy and misty - conditions favouring a 'temperature' inversion with cold smog containing air trapped close to the ground - then seek further information about the weather, and return to this or the previous resource, and see what the pollution data is like.

Other questions...

Some of your questions may have been answered, but probably not all. What exactly is 'very good' in terms of air quality, especially when a mixture of pollutants is concerned? Is it good enough?... for most people?... for everybody? 

Work is in progress to adapt teaching material that answers these questions, or to provide links to other sites which do. 

Acknowledgements etc