Galway research centre launches new app to forecast air pollution

Our Lady’s College students Niamh Egan and Christine John at the GTI Open day. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Our Lady’s College students Niamh Egan and Christine John at the GTI Open day. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

NUI Galway’s Centre for Climate and Air Pollution Studies (C-CAPS ) has launched a new app to provide real-time forecasting data on atmospheric composition. The app, called StreamAIR, will shine a light on the key drivers of climate change and air pollution and build on its internationally recognised Mace Head Atmospheric Research Station.

The C-CAPS’s Mace Head research centre in Connemara is one of the most important facilities for atmospheric composition observations globally and has been operating since 1958.

Executive dean of science and engineering at NUI Galway, Professor Walter Gear, said: “We are very proud of the work we do here and its contribution to European health and to informing measures to protect our planet. We are now adding this new app, StreamAIR, that will help to raise further awareness about air pollution and climate issues and their implications.

“Ireland and the world’s future can only be safeguarded by an immediate reduction in harmful emissions,” Prof Gear added. “Cleaner air can yield co-benefits for human health and for the planet by reducing the concentration of greenhouse gases responsible for climate change. Meeting our requirements under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is a major challenge for Ireland, but by using our technologies here in Galway, Ireland can accurately measure and report the progress it is making.”

Mace Head is a member of a number of regional to global networks, contributing data and analysis to a wide range of atmospheric problems. In particular, it is a World Meteorological Organisation (WMO ) Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW ) atmospheric composition and climate research station, and a European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP ) supersite with the aim of solving transboundary air pollution problems under the United Nations Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP ).

The centre’s director, Professor Colin O’Dowd, said: “The StreamAIR app is an extension of the Mace Head real-time data system, designed to fuse together real-time observation and forecast data on multiple platforms including mobile devices.”

Through StreamAIR, NUI Galway and Mace Head not only provide current real-time data to a range of agencies and networks, the facility has also generated some of the most important long-term observation datasets of greenhouse gases (GHGs ), such has carbon dioxide, methane, and ozone, and ozone depleting substances such as CFCs, along with particulate matter (PM ) such as sulphate haze producing acid rain.

Prof O’Dowd added: “These long-term trends have underpinned successful policy development and intervention in acid rain and ozone depletion issues, but a lot of work still remains for GHG warming agents, driving global warming. In fact, ozone is a double agent — while it is critical to have stratospheric ozone high in the sky to protect us from the sun’s harmful UV rays, at the surface, tropospheric ozone is a harmful air pollutant, causing premature deaths and mortality, and also a short-term warming agent, ie, its lifetime is much shorter that CO2 in terms of global warming. The StreamAIR app brings the polluting agents and global warming agents together into the palm of everybody’s hand, emphasising that both types of agents must be reduced through co-benefit observations, research, and policy development.”

According to Dr Liz Coleman, the principal researcher on the project, which is funded by the SFI MaREI Energy, Climate, and Marine Research Centre, the app has the potential to identify the sources of air pollution, as well as the toxicity level of air pollution episodes. This information can be combined with exposure data to better inform the public of the potential risks from a national level to a European scale. This enables users to protect their health by taking necessary precautions when a pollution event is forecasted on the app.

The app can be downloaded from the App Store. For more information visit www.nuigalway.ie/science/research/macehead, or watch a video on the Centre for Climate and Air Pollution Studies at vimeo.com/bbcswcp/download/371385129/d8dbcd983d

 

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