Air Quality research at SMHI

At the unit for Air Quality at the research department at SMHI, work is being carried out with the objective of supporting society, the authorities and decision makers with research and development within the area of Air Quality.

Road traffic
Road traffic is one of the major sources of air pollution.

Clean air is a pre-requisite for human health and also to ensure that animals, plants and cultural values are not damaged. Increased knowledge of the physical and chemical processes that affect the dispersion of air pollutants is therefore an important component in understanding the Air Quality of today and the future.

The purpose of Air Quality research being carried out at SMHI is to support society and other authorities with research and development in order to improve ways of calculating and analysing Air Quality and to evaluate its consequences.

Questions regarding Air Quality

There is a broad spectrum of questions on Air Quality related to the emissions of anthropogenic and natural substances. Various issues are involved; these include health and cost effects, climate change, acidification and eutrophication. Air Quality related issues may include for example:

  • What processes determine the dispersion of air pollutants?
  • What is the quality of our air like today and what will it be like in the future?
  • Where do air pollutants come from?
  • Which emission source is dominating?
  • What are the consequences of the levels of air pollutants in the air on the environment, our health and what costs are involved?
  • What are the consequences of a certain action, for example the reduction of emissions as a result of the reduction in traffic?
  • How does air pollution affect the climate and vice versa?

Air Quality is a prioritised subject on the EU's agenda, and as protection for the environment and for human health, the EU countries have agreed on Air Quality standards, which regulate the levels of air pollutants in ambient air. There is a considerable demand for tools to control the Air Quality in outdoor air, and to evaluate the consequences of future emissions and climate scenarios.

How is research conducted?

Through the development of advanced calculation models, we create tools and important components which are useful for the understanding of the physical and chemical processes which affect our Air Quality. Our research deals primarily with modelling and data analysis of the atmospheric transport, emission, chemical and physical transformation and deposition of air pollution substances. Calculations are carried out on different geographic scales, from studies on a local scale of individual streets to studies that cover entire continents. At our disposal, we have a toolbox with different models adapted to the scales in question.

The work involves participation in both national and international projects. The Air Quality unit participates actively in the EU's framework programme and network for research, but also has commitments in other parts of the world, for example Asia and South America.

The goal is that our applied research will be of considerable benefit to society through its contribution to increasing knowledge of Air Quality for today and for the future; that it will provide improved climate scenarios and form the basis of more reliable decisions. Ultimately, this will result in improvements in health and welfare and a better environment.