Pollutionwatch: Cold snap worsens particle load of air

Particle pollution increases as the wind slows down and chilly weather prompts the lighting of more wood fires


The last days of the “beast from the east” cold spell caused air pollution problems across large parts of the UK, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Within the UK particle pollution reached between five and 10 on the UK government’s 10-point scale over parts of south Wales and areas of England south of a Merseyside to Tyneside line, except the far south-west.

Pollution from industry, traffic and home wood and coal burning can stay in the air for a week or up to 10 days. This means that pollution emitted in one part of Europe can cause problems hundreds of miles away. If the wind slows down then particle pollution can build up over a whole region.

The particle pollution itself has been coming from many sources, including from coal burning in eastern Europe (Poland) and domestic heating in the UK and in other parts of western Europe.

Normally wood smoke is measured during the evenings, but many people choose to keep warm in that cold period in front of a wood fire at home during the day. Wood smoke particles were measured throughout day-time hours across southern England from 1 March into the weekend.

Over a timescale of hours and days wood smoke can undergo chemical reactions and produce more particle pollution. There is evidence that this added to the air pollution over England. A change of wind direction bought milder and fresher air on 4 March.

via Pollutionwatch: Cold snap worsens particle load of air | Environment | The Guardian

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