Increase in air pollution linked to heat

19th August 2013


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  • Pollution & Waste Management ,
  • Air

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IEMA

"Unusually high" temperatures in July may have contributed to high levels of ozone pollution across Europe, finds the European Environment Agency (EEA)

Safe thresholds of ozone pollution were breached at 25% of air quality monitoring stations across the bloc in July, according to preliminary data collated by the agency.

Under EU air quality rules, member states have to inform the EEA if levels of ozone (O3) rise above 180 micrograms (µg) per cubic metre of air – the level at which there is a risk to some sections of the population from even a brief exposure.

In July, breaches were reported in Belgium, the Netherlands, northern Italy, Spain, southern France and western Germany. At the same time, average temperatures in Copenhagen, Paris, Prague and Rome were among the highest recorded since 1996.

“Ozone formation increases during warm sunny weather depending on the level of ‘precursor pollutants’ present,” explained Paul McAleavey, head of the agency’s air and climate change programme.

“Europe must work hard to reduce the emissions of pollutants that cause ozone to protect human health.”

The EEA’s finding came as figures from Decc confirmed that during 2012 temperatures in central England were 0.40°C higher than average temperatures between 1961–1990. Despite being higher than average figures for the 30-year period, temperatures in 2012 were lower than in previous years; in 2011 they were 0.42°C higher than the 1961–1990 average, and in 2010 they were 0.46°C higher.

The climate change department also released data demonstrating that rainfall patterns in England and Wales have changed dramatically over the past 15 years.

Summer rainfall has increased year-on-year, while precipitation during the winter has fallen. Since 2006, rainfall in summer has been at least 22% higher than the 1961–1990 average.

The summer of 2012 was the wettest for a century, with precipitation up 37% on the 1961–1990 baseline year. However, the winter was also the driest since the 1970s, with rainfall 8% lower than the 1961–1990 average.

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