FMI expands air quality service to include black carbon

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The Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) has expanded its ‘Air quality in Finland’ service by including black carbon – an air pollutant harmful to human health and that also contributes to climate change.

Real-time information on black carbon concentrations in different environments and different parts of Finland provides a more accurate picture of the sources and concentration variations of particulates resulting from combustion. The information will be vital in preparation for the EU’s tightening ambient air quality legislation.

In Finland, most black carbon emissions are produced by old diesel vehicles and by burning wood in fireplaces. The increased use of firewood for heating due to the energy crisis also increases black carbon emissions, which may cause air quality problems or smoke harm in dense low-rise areas.

To date, black carbon has only been extensively measured in the Helsinki region, where the air quality measurements are conducted by Helsinki Region Environmental Services HSY. The monitoring of black carbon began in the region in 2009, and measurements are now carried out in seven locations.

Hanna Manninen, head of air quality unit at HSY, said, “Over the years, black carbon concentrations have decreased considerably in traffic environments with the renewal of the vehicle fleet. In low-rise areas, wood burning continues to have a major impact on the concentrations, especially in calm and frosty evenings.”

Real-time information on black carbon concentrations gives a much better picture of local emission sources than, for example, fine particle concentrations, which are more strongly influenced by long-range transport than local emissions.

Pia Anttila, research scientist at FMI, said, “We hope that the inclusion of black carbon in the real-time air quality monitoring service encourages other cities to include it in their monitoring programs as well.”

By incorporating results from FMI and University of Helsinki research stations, the black carbon measurement network now expands to cover all of Finland.

In northern research stations, such as FMI’s Sammaltunturi station and the University of Helsinki’s Värriö research station, black carbon is detected as a long-range transport from gas and oil fields in the north of Russia and extensive forest fires in Siberia.

“Black carbon accelerates climate change in the Arctic, and accurate measurements of the area are important for assessing the impacts,” said Antti Hyvärinen, head of unit, atmospheric composition, FMI.

Measurements from the Hyytiälä station in Juupajoki and the Puijo station in Kuopio provide a perspective on black carbon loading in southern and central Finland. The location of the Utö station is ideal for studying and monitoring loading from both maritime transportation and continental Europe.

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Dan first joined UKi Media & Events in 2014 having spent the early years of his career in the recruitment industry. As editor, he now produces content for Meteorological Technology International, unearthing the latest technological advances and research methods for the publication of each exciting new issue. When he’s not reporting on the latest meteorological news, Dan can be found on the golf course or apprehensively planning his next DIY project.

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