Smog affecting large regions of south Asia
Scientists at the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service are closely monitoring haze and smog blanketing large regions of south Asia which is affecting air quality for hundreds of millions of people.
Scientists from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), who are closely monitoring widespread haze and pollution across south Asia today reveal that the event affecting hundreds of millions of people may not disappear until March when temperatures rise.
CAMS, which is implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts on behalf of the European Commission, says northern India in particular has been experiencing degraded air quality since October.
The main areas affected are along the Indus River and Indo-Gangetic Plane with high levels of fine particulate matter known as PM2.5 impacting cities like New Delhi/India, Lahore/Pakistan, Dhaka/Bangladesh as well as Kathmandu/Nepal.
The air quality in India’s capital city New Delhi has remained in the ‘poor’ category since early January, exacerbated by cold temperatures, with the degraded air quality affecting a population of over 400 million.
Mark Parrington, Senior Scientist at the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), explains:
“Degraded air quality is common across northern India in winter, especially throughout the Indo-Gangetic Plain, due in part to emissions from anthropogenic activities such as traffic, cooking, heating and crop stubble burning which are able to accumulate over the region due to topography and cold stagnant conditions. We have been monitoring this prolonged and widespread incident, which has potential health impacts for hundreds of millions of people.”
“This winter haze could potentially continue until the spring when increased temperature and changes in the weather will help to dissipate the pollution”, he adds.
CAMS provides continuous information on air pollution such as fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and ozone, amongst other pollutants.
Comparisons with data from ground-based measurements shows PM2.5 levels remaining high throughout January (above) and February (below) with some fluctuations. Source: Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service/ECMWF
By combining information obtained from satellite and ground-based observations with detailed computer models of the atmosphere, CAMS scientists can provide air quality forecasts of the entire globe up to five days ahead, which includes this badly affected region.
The widespread haze has been clearly observed in satellite visible imagery and the CAMS global forecasts of aerosol optical depth (AOD) show the main contributions to the haze are from sulphate and organic matter. Analyses show that the concentration has remained high for a sustained period, peaking on 16th January and 1st February.