High-resolution mapping of urban air quality with heterogeneous observations: a new methodology and its application to Amsterdam

Mijling, Bas

In many cities around the world people are exposed to elevated levels of air pollution. Often local air quality is not well known due to the sparseness of official monitoring networks or unrealistic assumptions being made in urban-air-quality models. Low-cost sensor technology, which has become available in recent years, has the potential to provide complementary information. Unfortunately, an integrated interpretation of urban air pollution based on different sources is not straightforward because of the localized nature of air pollution and the large uncertainties associated with measurements of low-cost sensors.

This study presents a practical approach to producing high-spatiotemporal-resolution maps of urban air pollution capable of assimilating air quality data from heterogeneous data streams. It offers a two-step solution: (1) building a versatile air quality model, driven by an open-source atmospheric-dispersion model and emission proxies from open-data sources, and (2) a practical spatial-interpolation scheme, capable of assimilating observations with different accuracies.

The methodology, called Retina, has been applied and evaluated for nitrogen dioxide (inline-formulaNO2) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, during the summer of 2016. The assimilation of reference measurements results in hourly maps with a typical accuracy (defined as the ratio between the root mean square error and the mean of the observations) of 39 % within 2 km of an observation location and 53 % at larger distances. When low-cost measurements of the Urban AirQ campaign are included, the maps reveal more detailed concentration patterns in areas which are undersampled by the official network. It is shown that during the summer holiday period, inline-formulaNO2 concentrations drop about 10 %. The reduction is less in the historic city centre, while strongest reductions are found around the access ways to the tunnel connecting the northern and the southern part of the city, which was closed for maintenance. The changing concentration patterns indicate how traffic flow is redirected to other main roads.

Overall, it is shown that Retina can be applied for an enhanced understanding of reference measurements and as a framework to integrate low-cost measurements next to reference measurements in order to get better localized information in urban areas.

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Mijling, Bas: High-resolution mapping of urban air quality with heterogeneous observations: a new methodology and its application to Amsterdam. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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