Spring has started again and that means – if all goes well – warmer weather and less rain. But what do these changes in weather conditions actually mean for air quality?
RIVM recently published new releases Prepare About the Dutch air quality. Last year’s shutdown has painfully illustrated just how much traffic is affecting air quality. Air pollution decreased the fastest in large cities in particular.
In addition to traffic, industrial areas and farms also have a bad influence. Polluted air is harmful to our health and can lead, among other things, to heart, lung, cardiovascular and respiratory problems. How much we suffer from this polluted air also depends on the weather.
“The amount of polluted air you breathe in depends on the weather.”
Michel Van Wiel, Researcher at KNMI
The rain washes the clean air
So said Jos Felders, researcher at RIVM and professor of air quality and climate interactions at Utrecht University. “When it rains, the air is cleaned cleanly, as it were. Clean air blows with the westerly winds, and the opposite is the case when the winds blow from the Ruhr area.”
So it depends on the weather image how much polluted air you breathe in. “There are two important factors here,” says Michael Van Weil, a researcher at KNMI. “The thickness of the bottom layer of air and wind speed.” Van Weele explains that if the bottom layer of air was too thin – this is mainly the case in winter – pollutants such as suspended particles would remain nearby. “You see the same thing when there is little or no wind.” Next spring is a period with excess pollen in the air. Hay fever patients experience differences in weather conditions every day.
“It is important to reduce human emissions as much as possible.”
Jos Wilders, Professor
It always seems to explode
We live in a country that never dries out for a long time and where the wind is always blowing. This means that we often get a little bit of trouble from pollutants ending up in the atmosphere through our actions. “They are leaving our country very quickly,” says Van Weil. “But the polluted air coming from Germany and Poland is returning to our country at the same speed, with strong easterly winds.” If the weather forecast is unfavorable to the volatility of polluted air, RIVM will send a heating alert, which will soften residential areas further. On the heating alarm, you are instructed not to burn wood in or around the home on that day.
So no country has complete control over its air quality. “That is why it is so important to have good agreements in Europe,” says Wilders. The professor also wants to emphasize the importance of reducing human emissions as much as possible and taking measures to combat air pollution. After all, it doesn’t matter how strong the wind is, the air is clean anyway. “This can be done, for example, by removing traffic as much as possible from the city, making public transport more sustainable and stimulating its use. The growing popularity of electric cars is also a good development in this regard.”
What if we come back to the office later?
It is difficult to say how long the lockdown’s positive effects on our air quality will last. Will people still work from home or will we be back in the office in a minute? It is clear that even after a year of low traffic, we have breathed in a lot of clean air, but we still do not meet all the WHO requirements. The Prepare Statistics Netherlands shows that despite political promises and the Coronavirus crisis, emissions are still very high at 0.5%.
So we can be disappointed when the heavy rain falls on us or when we blow up our bike again. Troubled weather often works in our favor. Hay fever patients know this from their own experience.