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Copernicus: Scientists monitor smog over south Asia affecting over 400 million people Monday, 22 February 2021

Copernicus: Scientists monitor smog over south Asia affecting over 400 million people

CAMS, which is implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts on behalf of the European Commission, says northern India in particular has been experiencing degraded air quality since October. The main areas affected are along the Indus River and Indo-Gangetic Plane with high levels of fine particulate matter known as PM2.5 impacting cities like New Delhi/India, Lahore/Pakistan, Dhaka/Bangladesh as well as Kathmandu/Nepal. The air quality in India’s capital city New Delhi has remained in the ‘poor’ category since early January, exacerbated by cold temperatures, with the degraded air quality affecting a population of over 400 million.

CAMS Senior Scientist Mark Parrington explained: “Degraded air quality is common across northern India in winter, especially throughout the Indo-Gangetic Plain, due in part to emissions from anthropogenic activities such as traffic, cooking, heating and crop stubble burning which are able to accumulate over the region due to topography and cold stagnant conditions. We have been monitoring this prolonged and widespread incident, which has potential health impacts for hundreds of millions of people.

“This winter haze could potentially continue until the spring when increased temperature and changes in the weather will help to dissipate the pollution”, he adds.

CAMS provides continuous information on air pollution such as fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and ozone, amongst other pollutants. By combining information obtained from satellite and ground-based observations with detailed computer models of the atmosphere, CAMS scientists can provide air quality forecasts of the entire globe up to five days ahead, which includes this badly affected region.

The widespread haze has been clearly observed in satellite visible imagery and the CAMS global forecasts of aerosol optical depth (AOD) show the main contributions to the haze are from sulphate and organic matter. Analyses show that the concentration has remained high for a sustained period, peaking on 16th January and 1st February.

Comparisons with data from ground-based measurements shows PM2.5 levels remaining high throughout January (above) and February (below) with some fluctuations. Source: Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service/ECMWF

Research has shown that chronic exposure to harmful gases and small particles such as PM2.5 can have adverse health effects, reducing life expectancy by more than eight months on average and by two years in the most polluted cities and regions.

CAMS’ daily analyses and forecasts of long-range transport of atmospheric pollutants across the globe as well as background air quality for the European domain, have multiple uses. By monitoring, forecasting and reporting on air quality, CAMS reaches millions of users through downstream services and apps such as Windy.com to provide crucial information on air quality.

Copernicus is the European Union’s flagship Earth observation programme which operates through six thematic services: Atmosphere, Marine, Land, Climate Change, Security and Emergency. It delivers freely accessible operational data and services providing users with reliable and up-to-date information related to our planet and its environment. The programme is coordinated and managed by the European Commission and implemented in partnership with the member states, the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), EU agencies and Mercator Océan, among others.

ECMWF operates two services from the EU’s Copernicus Earth observation programme: the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) and the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S). They also contribute to the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS). The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) is an independent intergovernmental organisation supported by 34 states. It is both a research institute and a 24/7 operational service, producing and disseminating numerical weather predictions to its member states. This data is fully available to the national meteorological services in the member states. The supercomputer facility (and associated data archive) at ECMWF is one of the largest of its type in Europe and member states can use 25% of its capacity for their own purposes.

ECMWF is expanding its location across its member states for some activities. In addition to an HQ in the UK and Computing Centre in Italy, new offices with a focus on activities conducted in partnership with the EU, such as Copernicus, will be located in Bonn, Germany from Summer 2021.

The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service website can be found here.

The Copernicus Climate Change Service website can be found here.

More information on Copernicus.

The ECMWF website can be found here.

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