System forecasts air pollution

The Universidad Politécnica de Madrid’s School of Computing has developed a computer system that is claimed to efficiently control and forecast air pollution.

The system is capable of making real-time air-quality forecasts and analysing the impact of static and dynamic emission sources in runtime mode. This way, it can help the environmental authorities to reduce air-quality problems.

The air quality of a particular region is defined by the geographical distribution of the emission sources, the amounts of emitted pollutants, the physical and chemical processes taking place in the atmosphere, and regional climate and relief. These factors condition the processes of dispersion and transportation.

The system includes complex atmospheric models that are fitted to the complexity and non-linearity of the processes taking place in a totally dynamic atmosphere.

The tool has already been used in a number of real applications by Madrid’s City Council and Regional Government, Bilbao City Council and Leicester City Council.

The councils all applied the system in forecasting mode, where it makes daily 72-hour air pollution forecasts in runtime mode, displaying the information over the internet.

The system has also been used in historic mode to forecast the impact of industrial sources on air quality with the aim of identifying air pollution problems potentially caused by pollutant sources. The system was applied in this mode in Morata de Tajuña, Madrid, where it examined the impact of a combined cycle power plant.

Finally, the system has been applied in real-time mode, which is said to be the most complex mode where the system exploits all its capabilities. In real-time mode, the system forecasts air pollution for a 72-hour period. If it detects pollution alerts, it activates the historic mode to ascertain the potential impact of each of the modelled sources and suggests which sources should reduce emissions and by how much in percentage terms.