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9 Apr 2020Assessing the drop in London road traffic emissions during COVID-19 restrictions

The restrictions imposed by the UK Government to limit the spread of COVID-19 have led to unprecedented reductions in the volume of road traffic; the latest Government figures suggest that vehicle use has dropped to 40% of normal levels. Discerning the impact of this on air quality in our towns and cities is difficult however, because air quality is heavily dependent on the weather. In typical windy UK conditions, poor air is rapidly mixed with cleaner air from above, so only those nearest to the busiest roads experience poor air quality. However, when the wind is light, as it was during the fine sunny weather that immediately followed the imposition of COVID-19 restrictions on 23rd March, traffic pollution emitted into stagnant air builds up, leading to more widespread poor air quality. So how can we tease out the impact of the known recent reduction in vehicle use from measured air quality data?

Scientists at CERC have analysed recent measured air quality data from across London using a mathematical technique (Carruthers et al., 2019) that combines measured air pollution concentration data with CERC's ADMS-Urban air quality model to derive an estimate of the underlying road traffic emissions that caused the measured concentrations. The figure shows how measured concentrations and derived emissions have changed since the 16th March, when the Government first issued social distancing advice (a high-resolution figure is here). The derived emissions first show a marked drop over the weekend of 21st/22nd March, which coincides with the announcement on the evening of Friday 20th March that bars and restaurants should close. Monday 23rd March saw a widely-reported rush hour in London; this can be seen in both the measured concentrations and the derived emissions. The impact of the restrictions announced in the evening of 23rd March can be seen in the derived emissions in the following days, even though measured concentrations continued to rise through Wednesday, due to the sunny and still weather conditions. The lowest derived emissions are seen on the weekend of 28th/29th March, averaging 24% of pre-restriction levels. Weekday derived emissions of consistently around 40% of pre-restriction levels contrasts with a second peak in measured concentrations on 1st April, again due to still weather conditions. From today, CERC's air quality forecasting services for London and the South-East have been adjusted to include this temporary reduction in road traffic.

By combining air quality monitoring with dispersion modelling, CERC scientists have been able to show that as well as limiting the spread of COVID-19, the Government restrictions are leading to a reduction in traffic emissions in London. In more normal times in future, this type of analysis can help uncover the true impact of emissions-reduction strategies on local air quality.

3 Apr 2020Major new release of ADMS-Urban, ADMS-Roads & ADMS-Airport

Version 5 is a major update of ADMS-Urban, ADMS-Roads and ADMS-Airport with many powerful new features to aid modelling, data processing and visualisation.

ADMS-Urban, ADMS-Roads and ADMS-Airport are comprehensive tools for investigating air pollution taking account of complex urban morphology including street canyons and road tunnels. ADMS-Roads is designed primarily for networks of roads that may be in combination with industrial sites, for instance small towns or rural road networks. ADMS-Urban can model large urban areas providing output from street-scale to urban-scale. ADMS-Airport has the features of ADMS-Urban, and can also incorporate all relevant emission sources at airports by using algorithms designed specifically to model dispersion from aircraft engines.

Some of the new features in version 5 include

  • Run splitting: option to automatically break a large modelling region into smaller spatial regions, which can be distributed across your available processors to significantly reduce turnaround times. Ideal when using Run Manager
  • Source exclusion: option to exclude low-emitting sources from the model run, which can help to reduce run times.
  • Source apportionment: output the contribution of each source to each receptor, along with visualisation in the Mapper.
  • EFT 9.0: includes the latest UK emission factors, which include the effects of road gradients on emissions from heavy goods vehicles.
  • Time-varying emissions: Now allows for different factors for specific source-pollutant combinations.
  • Plus many enhanced usability functions throughout the Mapper and interface.

All the new features are described in detail in the What's New? guides.

Users with support will get this version within the next few working days.

For further information on this release or any CERC products please email us.

18 Mar 2020Communications with CERC during the COVID-19 pandemic

During these extraordinary times of reduced social interaction and home working, CERC will be making sure we continue to interact with and support our model users and clients.

We will be handling all email helpdesk and enquiries as usual, but we are temporarily replacing telephone support, so please email for everything!

Please see our contact page for details.

Similarly, please use email for communications about ongoing projects.

This news item will not be updated. For the latest information please see our COVID-19 arrangements page


5 Feb 2020Investigating emission limits for the Norwegian Environment Agency

The Norwegian Environment Agency has commissioned CERC to study how air concentration benchmarks for specific metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) correspond to annual emissions to air from a particular source.

In Norway, the major industrial sources of these emissions are non-ferrous metal industries such as aluminium and manganese production. Other contributors include graphite producers, inorganic chemical manufacturers and oil and gas refineries.

The key question in the study is how much can be emitted for a given set of emission parameters before the concentration benchmarks are reached? The answer will be determined through modelling using CERC's industrial dispersion model ADMS 5.

The Norwegian Environment Agency will use the results for screening, to decide whether detailed dispersion modelling is required for a specific facility.


29 Jan 2020Breathe London wins Smart 50 Award

The Breathe London project has won a Smart 50 Award from Smart Cities Connect, in the Digital Transformation category. These annual awards recognize global smart cities projects, honouring the most innovative and influential work.

In the project Google Earth Outreach have equipped two of their iconic Street View cars with air quality sensors. These have taken pollution readings approximately every 30 metres whilst they travelled through London's streets over one year. Meanwhile, 100 state-of-the-art fixed sensor pods have been mounted on lampposts and buildings across London.

CERC's renowned ADMS-Urban model is being used together with the sensor data to generate hyper-local air quality mapping both for nowcasts and forecasts, and to deliver new insight into the sources of pollution. The data generated by this new network is available for the public to view on an interactive online map built by CERC on the Breathe London website. The map shows Londoners the condition of the air they are currently breathing.

The project consortium is led by the Environmental Defense Fund, and includes CERC, ACOEM Air Monitors, University of Cambridge, National Physical Laboratory and Google Earth Outreach. The Breathe London award will be presented at the 2020 Smart 50 Awards Gala, which takes place during April in Denver, Colorado.

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