Press release HZG

Better data needed to monitor the impact of air pollution on health and climate

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As debates rage about the growing threat of poor air quality to human health, scientists still lack enough of the right data to help governments accurately model and mitigate air pollution and its effects, according to a new study published in the Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association.

To help policymakers make better, more informed decisions, there is an urgent need for more detailed information about the location and timing of pollutant emissions. Current data gaps are leading to large uncertainty in emission figures (of up to 50%).

In 2015, air pollution contributed to 6.5 million deaths worldwide from diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer. In this new analysis, environmental scientists review the methods that are being used to model pollutant emissions around the world. (Source: HZG press release)

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Matthias, V., Arndt, J.A., Aulinger, A., Bieser, J., Denier Van Der Gon, H., Kranenburg, R., Kuenen, J., Neumann, D., Pouliot, G., & Quante, M. (2018): Modeling emissions for three-dimensional atmospheric chemistry transport models. Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association, Vol. 0, Iss. ja, 2018, doi:10.1080/10962247.2018.1424057


Poor air quality is still a threat for human health in many parts of the world. In order to assess measures for emission reductions and improved air quality, three-dimensional atmospheric chemistry transport modeling systems are used in numerous research institutions and public authorities. These models need accurate emission data in appropriate spatial and temporal resolution as input. This paper reviews the most widely used emission inventories on global and regional scale and looks into the methods used to make the inventory data model ready. Shortcomings of using standard temporal profiles for each emission sector are discussed and new methods to improve the spatio-temporal distribution of the emissions are presented. These methods are often neither top-down nor bottom-up approaches but can be seen as hybrid methods that use detailed information about the emission process to derive spatially varying temporal emission profiles. These profiles are subsequently used to distribute bulk emissions like national totals on appropriate grids. The wide area of natural emissions is also summarized and the calculation methods are described. Almost all types of natural emissions depend on meteorological information, which is why they are highly variable in time and space and frequently calculated within the chemistry transport models themselves. The paper closes with an outlook for new ways to improve model ready emission data, for example by using external databases about road traffic flow or satellite data to determine actual land use or leaf area. In a world where emission patterns change rapidly, it seems appropriate to use new types of statistical and observational data to create detailed emission data sets and keep emission inventories up-to-date.

Implication: Emission data is probably the most important input for chemistry transport model (CTM) systems. It needs to be provided in high temporal and spatial resolution and on a grid that is in agreement with the CTM grid. Simple methods to distribute the emissions in time and space need to be replaced by sophisticated emission models in order to improve the CTM results. New methods, e.g. for ammonia emissions, provide grid cell dependent temporal profiles. In the future, large data fields from traffic observations or satellite observations could be used for more detailed emission data.

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