The markets for the AQ-WATCH products are: public authorities, municipalities, research centres, infrastructure operators, industries, emergency services, airports and flight control authorities and the citizens..
City air quality plans typically include a series of measures based on an assessment of air quality and trend forecasts for the future and detailed analysis of high levels of concentrations, including the responsible sources. Understanding the reasons for high levels of air pollution in cities is crucial for decision-making on urban air quality management.
According to the EEA report “Europe’s urban air quality – re-assessing implementation challenges in cities”, prepared in cooperation with 12 large cities, the main needs for the cities are:
- More guidance on how best to communicate information on air quality to the public and ensure active engagement and interest from citizens.
- More guidance on how best to find information on and include real-world vehicle emissions in modelling. These issues are considered important given the need for robust information to properly design and estimate the future impacts of possible measures addressing the transport sector in cities.
- Need to bridge the gap concerning the enforcement of certain EU and national requirements that lie outside the competency of local authorities to define and manage.
- Better guidance on how to best coordinate measures on air quality with other measures addressing, for example, local climate change mitigation and energy measures, noise and health, and well-being.
- Better guidance on the use of cost-benefit analysis tools (emissions, modelling, health impact analysis).
The C40 initiative gathers cities committed to delivering on the most ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement at the local level, as well as to cleaning the air. 97 of the world’s greatest cities representing 700+ million citizens and one quarter of the global economy are engaged in the C40 initiative.
Most partners in AQ-WATCH are research centres that have developed or improved the models that are being used by the project. The joint expertise from these centres, in specific ways, is what set AQ-WATCH apart from other enterprises. However, many other research centres in the world, particularly in developing countries, may be able to use AQ-WATCH products for research purposes only, given the large number of models used, with different setups and resolutions. This in turn has the potential to improve the quality of the models used, and therefore, the products.
The needs from these research centres may be:
- Understand the impact of model resolution in air quality simulations
- Understand the role of meteorological fields in air quality
- Understand the role of different parameterizations in air quality simulations
Similarly, some research centres may deliver environmental services and they may use AQ-WATCH products to provide information to customers, through the interpretation of the model simulations and forecasts.
There is a need for the emitting industries to be involved in air quality matters due to stricter regulations. Indeed, many regulations prescribing the maximum concentration of pollutants are in force all over the world and industrial companies are bound to comply with them.
Besides, often industrial areas and residential neighbourhoods are very close to each other such that industrial pollution might affect citizens and communities.
Hereby, “emitting industries” refers to: energy supply; metal (ferrous and non-ferrous) production; non-metallic minerals production; extractive industries; chemicals; other manufacturing; waste (including water and sewage management).
The emitting industries thus need to know better their impact on air quality and to assess the efficiency of the mitigation measures applied. Only in the US, there are thousands of industrial sources, which are responsible for emissions of various types of pollutants, including “Criteria Pollutants” and other hazardous (or toxic) air pollutants, which are regulated under the Clean Air Act. If considering Europe only, the number of industrial facilities emitting suspended particles, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide is 7473 according to the industrial reporting database under the Industrial Emission Directive 2010/75/EU. The European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register comes to a similar conclusion. 2333 facilities emit NOx/NO2 in the air, 362 facilities emit PM10 and 952 facilities emit SOX/SO2.
In any country where there is a regulation on industrial emissions, emitting industries may:
Have to ensure compliance with emission limits set for private companies with real time data.
Want to anticipate the adaptation of their production according to air quality forecasts.
Public authorities are traditionally the organizations dealing with air quality issues and they pay more and more attention to air quality products in order to implement the right policies on pollutant emission controls, as well as to provide information and advice to citizens through applications and services freely available to inhabitants of a city or tourists.
Free EO data can be seen as a source of data but even if air quality is an issue to be dealt with at global level, the products and services must address local areas. It implies that high resolution data is needed and this data is most of the time fee-based or it requires dedicated infrastructure such as modelling or measurement efforts by local authorities themselves.
Public authorities need AQ-WATCH services to:
- Support policy-making related to air quality
- Estimation of policy efficiency and target achievement
- Identification of air pollution peaks and of best measures to adopt or mitigate such situations
- Ability to inform citizens on current, historical and forecasted air quality
- Survey pollutants dispersion over large areas
Several industry sectors are impacted by the atmospheric pollution and in particular the skin care industry and the solar energy industries (power plants and electricity grid operators).
Stimulated by strong policy support concentrated mostly in Europe, the United States and Japan, deployment of distributed solar PV systems in homes, commercial buildings and industry has been growing exponentially over the last decade.
Use of EO data on factors impacting solar energy yields such as aerosol optical depth, ozone concentration or cloud cover can support both site selection, efficiency monitoring and yield forecast of solar power plants. Site selection is particularly key, as it is not only about determining the irradiance on a site, but is also about ensuring shading effects of solar panels e.g. due to dust are avoided and that sky conditions will be clear the majority of the time. As for energy monitoring and forecasting, the main interest of EO is to reduce uncertainties and ensure reliability of the estimations whose errors can lead to unforeseen costs.
The needs of the solar energy industry are:
Optimize the selection of solar plants locations and design
Better estimate of the outputs (e. g. based on plant characteristics coupled with forecasts)
On demand maintenance
Production of forecasts (e.g. irradiance forecasts) for a better integration to the electricity grid
The cosmetic industry is also impacted by air pollution as it is potentially damaging to the skin.
Beauty products with anti-pollution battling skin care are on the rise. Increasing pollution levels and thus deteriorating air quality, the depleting ozone layer and a wider awareness of climate change and environmental topics, have all caused a huge shift in consumers’ attitude over the past few years and is driving demand for anti-pollution skincare products. According to a 2020 report on the anti-pollution skincare products market: over 90% of the world’s population lives in places where air pollution is above WHO guidelines.
This is one of the reasons why almost every skincare brand across the world have developed a new range of anti-pollution products today. Almost every skincare brand today has an anti-pollution line to its name.
Real-time data provide accurate, and specific information that in turn allows beauty companies to offer customized and relevant solutions to their consumers such as a cosmetics app or feature on how to treat your skin before and after being immersed in polluted air, and based on the pollutants you have been exposed.
Furthermore, cosmetic companies have a range of products to help consumers prevent premature aging, clogged pores and other skin damages caused by air pollution. Customized campaigns with a sense of urgency based on air quality data could drive sales. Beauty products and the marketing efforts of the cosmetics industry will evolve with real-time air quality data.
The needs of the cosmetic industry are:
Real-time data of specific pollutants or overall air quality
Daily forecasts of specific pollutants or overall air quality at a regional or urban scale.
Wildfires are common throughout the world and a warmer and drier climate is expected to lead to more frequent and more intense fires near or within populated areas. Recent headlines are full of wildfire stories. This year, many countries have experienced their worst wildfires in decades.
Smoke generated by wildfires is a mixture of various pollutants, amongst which are particulate matter below 2.5 um (PM2.5) and various gases. Direst emissions of toxic pollutants can affect first responders and local residents. Breathing in smoke can have immediate health effects, including coughing, trouble breathing normally, stinging eyes, a scratchy throat, runny nose, irritated sinuses, wheezing and shortness of breath, chest pain, headaches, an asthma attack, tiredness and fast heartbeat.
Weather conditions such as wind, temperature, and humidity contribute to fire behaviour and smoke accumulation. Once smoke enters the atmosphere, its concentration at any one place and time depends on mechanisms of transport and dispersion.
Winds move smoke away from the fire and contribute to atmospheric mixing meaning smoke impacts to the public may be lessened near the fire while winds can move smoke long distances into communities far from where the wildfire is burning.
Communicating air quality conditions during wildfires is one of the measures to reduce their impacts on the public health. Accurate real-time monitoring of smoke and of the air quality can be very challenging. On-site air quality sensors can easily become damaged, causing them to fail to report accurately or not to report at all because of the fire itself. They may also be too far away and not measuring the right information.
By combining ground observation and satellites data, AQ-WATCH can help to provide more accurate information on the wildfires to the emergency services.
Emergency services needs in particular:
- Information on emissions, especially from different source materials
- Information on transport of and chemical reactions in fire plumes
- Information on evolution and dynamics of fires and fire plumes
- Improved fire weather analysis to aid first responders and fire managers
- Quantitative assessment of population exposures to toxics from fires
- Measures of air quality impairment from ozone and primary or secondary particles
Airports and flight control authorities
Wildfires as well as dust storms also pose unique problems for the aviation community. The most common problem is the reduction of visibility because of the smoke which strongly depends on the wind direction. Airports may close and reroute air traffic because of visibility problems, unstable air currents caused by the fires and dust storms, or damage to aviation facilities and runways. Airport operators and flight control authorities may benefit from more accurate real time visibility monitoring and forecasts. It will allow them to better anticipate and decide the rerouting or cancellation of flights or even closure of the airport which have an important economic impact for both the airports and the airline companies.
Citizens pay bigger attention to air quality and how pollution affects them. Citizens often prefer to receive information for the relatively small area in which they live and/or operate. This information must be tailored to their specific needs and distributed directly to them, for example by social media or through specialized mobile apps or websites. There are now significant attempts to further downscale the data provided by regional models into data that are valid at the city block and even the street scale.
AQ-WATCH products will include specific information at spatial scale smaller than 1 km, which is considerably better than in most current applications. AQ-WATCH will allow individuals, through air quality alerts, to reduce their exposure to air pollution via preventive measures. By providing personalized information on (forecasted) exposure, it will help individuals to manage their life, to navigate and choose outdoor places to live, work, go to school, shop, travel, exercise, plan activities ahead, and better manage treatments – enhance disease management and medical decisions by allowing a patient’s physician access to this information.
According to the Ambient Air Quality Database from WHO, around 91% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality levels exceed WHO limits. While ambient air pollution affects developed and developing countries alike, low- and middle-income countries experience the highest-burden, with the greatest toll in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions.
The needs of the citizens are:
maps providing air quality information at local level enabling conscious decisions to be taken
Information and forecasts for individual citizen to enable them to adapt their behaviour to reduce the health impacts of pollution episodes.