CAMS publish interim report on European air quality in 2022

The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) who use satellite and ground-based observations with forecast models to gather their data, has released its finding on the quality of air in Europe over the course of last year. 

One of the most notable findings is that emissions from road traffic are now back to pre-pandemic levels, mostly driven by the haulage industry. Aviation emissions remain  slightly below those levels.

The report focusses in some details on five separate pollution episodes over the course of the year. To qualify as an episode poor air quality must be experienced over at least three adjacent countries and must last for at least three days.

These events are triggered by the combination of pollutants and meteorological conditions and 2022 was a very warm and unusually dry year. Three of these events were concerned with PM levels, with an event in March being particularly severe, especially for central and eastern Europe and northern Italy but which, at its worst, was felt across the continent as a whole. The contributing factors to this episode are many and various and differ in the NW of Europe to the SE but the effect of Saharan dust and European wildfires was noted.

The other two events concerned ozone and occurred  in June and July. The July event was the largest ozone pollution episode of the year and coincided with a heatwave in western Europe and wildfires in Spain, Portugal, and France. The report also highlights the role of biogenic volatile organic compound emissions from vegetation, combined with anthropogenic emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), in the formation of ozone during the heatwave.

Ozone was measured above 180 µg m³ 1,415 times over the year compared to just 517 the previous year (for perspective, the UK’s worst month for ozone last year was April in which levels averaged 86.7 µg/m³). Ozone levels could have been much worse (as they had been in 2015) were it not for clean air arriving from North Africa.

Similarly, PM2.5 was considerably more prevalent compared to 2021. The total number of exceedances of the daily PM2.5 concentration threshold of 25 µg m³ in 2022 was 14,615, against 8,428 the year before. PM10 levels remained consistent.

CAMS observes that the warmer temperatures and heat waves impacted the figures in three ways: it contributed to the high levels of ozone, wildfires across the continent contributed to PM2.5 levels and a warmer than average winter reduced emissions from residential heating.

The war in Ukraine is also felt to have impacted emissions due to increases in energy and fuel prices and deliberate shifts away from Russian-supplied natural gas. Despite rising fuel costs, transportation usage was only minimally affected as all means of transport were equally impacted.

Despite the risk of a switch to lower-cost fuels such as wood, at this stage it appears that emissions in the residential sector have decreased, which could be partly due to milder-than-usual meteorological conditions, but also to energy saving measures.



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