The Atmospheric Pollution Portal – visualising UK air pollution

The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) has produced a new web-based tool that allows users to overlay and compare concentrations of a range of air pollutants across the UK and see how levels change through time from 2001 to 2014. The Atmospheric Pollutant Portal is a visualisation of the output of a complex 3D atmospheric chemistry transport model (EMEP4UK rv4.3 – a UK specific application of the European Monitoring and Evaluation Program (EMEP) MSC-W model). The model was developed by CEH scientists working in collaboration with the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, and with the University of Edinburgh.

The EMEP4UK model calculates atmospheric pollution levels at the surface for a horizontal resolution of 5km squares across the whole UK. Because the datasets are very large, it has not previously been possible to visualise them easily and the new web-tool enables users, for the first time, to interactively explore the model output. Comparing concentration and deposition maps, as well as displaying the development of pollution episodes over time, allows users to explore the dynamic nature of atmospheric pollution in an unprecedented manner.

Screengrab from CEH's Atmospheric Pollutant Portal

The Portal currently shows 12 key atmospheric pollutants. These include the concentrations of particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and surface ozone which all can have a major effect on human health. It also displays the amounts and regional variation of sulphur and nitrogen compounds that are deposited from the air which can cause problems for agricultural crops and the natural environment. 

Comparing concentration and deposition maps, as well as displaying the development of pollution episodes over time allows users to explore the dynamic nature of atmospheric pollution in an unprecedented manner.

Dr Colin Mackechnie, Business Development Manager at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology said, “The Atmospheric Portal makes it easy for everyone to see how atmospheric pollutants move across the UK, and to understand how different parts of the UK might be affected by atmospheric chemicals that affect the health of humans and the environment.” 

Air Pollution Modeller Dr Massimo Vieno from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology who leads the EMEP4UK development said, “The Atmospheric Portal shows that air pollutants can travel long distances, from sources in the UK or other European countries. The EMEP4UK model is driven by real meteorology (temperature, wind speed and direction, etc) in order to calculate the transport and chemical changes of pollutants across the UK. By visualising where hotspots of pollution occur, and how these move through time, we can understand risks to humans and to our environment. In future we plan to add more data and predictions of where problems are likely.”

"By visualising where hotspots of pollution occur, and how these move through time, we can understand risks to humans and to our environment." Dr Massimo Vieno, CEH

The Atmospheric Pollution Portal is a new tool available from CEH’s Environmental Information Platform. Other portals hosted on the Platform include viewers for Drought data, Land Cover, UK Lakes and Rainfall and more.

Additional information

Atmospheric Pollutant Portal - Explore atmospheric pollutants over the UK as modelled by EMEP4UK

Development of the Atmospheric Pollution Portal was funded by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology’s National Capability funding through our Environmental Informatics research

Staff page of Dr Massimo Vieno

Watch a YouTube video of EMEP4UK modelling of surface hourly concentration of SO4 particulate matter for the whole 2008

CEH Environmental Information Platform

Related links

Norwegian Meteorological Institute

University of Edinburgh

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