Europe-wide effort to monitor air pollution

The quality of the air around us makes a big difference to our lives – even if it is not immediately obvious. Bad quality air can make your eyes itchy or sore, or give you a cough. For people with certain heart and lung conditions, poor air quality can be dangerous, so keeping track of the different gases and particles in the atmosphere is very important – and satellites play a crucial role.

Monitoring of the atmosphere is an important part of the European Union Copernicus programme (which used to be known as GMES). The MACC (Monitoring Atmospheric Composition and Climate) projects deliver the necessary information in advance of the fully operational stage of Copernicus.  The video above shows the important processes for the MACC and MACC-II projects, which combine monitoring and forecasting to show movement of different components of the atmosphere over time.

MACC-II’s daily forecasts can show dust coming from the Sahara, which affects air quality and visibility in Europe. This can help communities likely to be affected to prepare – for example, local authorities may warn those with breathing problems not to spend too much time outside.

Dust also means less direct solar radiation reaches the Earth’s surface, so people managing electricity supplies from solar sources also need to be aware of its arrival.

National meteorological services keep track of these changes in the atmosphere before delivering their forecasts, and include any warnings about hazardous air quality. Some weather services – including those in Austria and the United Kingdom – regularly publish forecasts including ozone, particulate matter and dust, on their websites.

About the Author

Ruth McAvinia

Ruth McAvinia

Learning Zone Writer