Yr2 Underspend: Regional-scale influences on Delhi air pollution

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: NCAS


Uncertainties in regional exchanges of air pollution can fundamentally undermine confidence in, and the potential effectiveness of, air pollution policies within cities themselves. This project will address key science capability gaps associated with assessing and reducing pollution impacts in Delhi and the wider National Capital Region. This will be achieved through a collaborative UK-India development of new science tools for predicting air pollution at the surface and measuring air pollution emissions and exposure in India.

These ambitious goals will be achieved through an intensive six month coordinated modelling and experimental effort from NCAS in the UK and IITM and IIT in India. The project will accelerate the creation of advanced new science capability in the UK and India, and enhance further the links between the UK and India for the development of airborne measurement technologies.

Planned Impact

Air pollution is well established as having major impacts on human well-being, welfare and quality of life in addition to reducing crop yields in many developing countries. Whilst the exact pathways and mechanisms for health effects remain to be established, there is strong evidence to demonstrate that months to years of life can be lost, and with decades of health impairment, through pollution exposure indoors and outside. In developing countries the impacts are disproportionately experienced by the poorest in society, where outdoor pollution is exacerbated further by indoor exposure to poorly ventilated combustion sources. The underlying causes of air pollution are understood; combustion of fossil fuels for electricity, transport, cooking and heating, agricultural emissions, resource extraction, dust and so on. Over the past two centuries economic expansion has been closely tied to transition periods with increased air pollution and negative social and health impacts. A challenge for 21st century development is to create an integrated scientific, regulatory, and technological framework, which enables development in the poorest counties, with improvements in individual prosperity and well-being, but without damaging air pollution as a side effect.
Inability to fully describe the chemistry and physics of the highly polluted urban atmosphere limits society's response in targeting actions and policy to improve health but without undermining development and economic goals. It is unrealistic to attempt to immediately eliminate certain sources of air pollution given current levels of maturity and cost of replacement technologies. Rather, developing economies must be on a pathway with optimized incremental adoption of technologies that maximize air quality improvements in the shortest time possible and with manageable economic costs.

The pathway to this goal is through policies informed by a robust scientific understanding. In air pollution science, understanding is encapsulated in numerical models that attempt to simulate emission of pollutants in time and space, disaggregated by source, the meteorology, and the transformation of chemicals. Such models then provide a means to estimate human exposure and to provide predictions, warnings and pro-active management of urban systems. This proposal is focused at the issue of testing and improving air pollution model processes in Delhi, a location that faces major health and pollution challenges as it grows economically. Confidence in regionally optimised models that fit an appropriate point in the economic and technological cycle of a country are critical and these models must be tested and proven against observations. If they pass this test, they have value for forecasts over timescales relevant to urban planning, economic policy and regulation. This proposal will combine measurements from a range platforms to test air pollution model performance in Delhi.

Robust pollution models are useful only in a development context if they are placed alongside skilled local scientists who can extract value and meaning from their outputs. Such a combination of capabilities is central to enabling successful economic development pathways that minimize air pollution and health impacts whilst speeding the transition to cleaner cities with prospering economies. Our proposal meets these objectives through training and sharing of knowledge and the delivery of improved local capabilities in both measurement and modelling. We focus in particular on the development of local skills in air pollution measurement using low-cost sensor devices and using data from Earth observation. We combine this with training to support the direct measurement of air pollution emissions from particular source types such as power generation, road transport and domestic combustion, and the translation of new science capability for aircraft observations to Indian researchers as they develop their own national infrastructure.


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Lewis A (2016) Validate personal air-pollution sensors. in Nature

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Lewis AC (2020) An increasing role for solvent emissions and implications for future measurements of volatile organic compounds. in Philosophical transactions. Series A, Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences

Description This project has lead to the development of new observing capabilities for regional air pollution science that are specifically applicable for use in developing countries, and with a focus on future application in Delhi, India. Technological developments at NCAS have resulted in a new abilities to measure ethane, VOCs and NOx from the FAAM aircraft at high time resolution and suitable for aerial surveying of emissions and transformation on a city scale. The techniques supports estimation of emissions in cities with little or no ground infrastructure. Research into low cost surface sensors has helped characterize performance and resulted in a new set of guidance on the applicability of these technologies in various urban settings. This work on sensors has supported new guidance being issued by WMO and Defra.
Exploitation Route The development of new instruments and the technical integration of these instruments on the FAAM aircraft platform creates a substantial new observational capability for the UK, and allows for the application of that capability for science on regional and global scales. The completion of technical integration of NOx and ethane instruments creates an enduring capability that will last beyond the award period. Work continues new VOC samplers for FAAM. Parallel research activities on the development of surface sensors suitable for use in developing countries has lead to a greatly improved understanding of performance and been influential in shaping new advice being issued in the UK by Defra, and internationally by WMO.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://www.nature.com/news/validate-personal-air-pollution-sensors-1.20195
Description The findings on sensors have been taken up by the UK Government Chief Scientific Advisor in a review on future measurement technologies that may be used to help address UK NO2 problems and also by Defra nd the EA. The research findings have been integrated into new advice to governments from WMO on sensor applications, and with a particular focus on advice for emerging economies.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal

Description Emerging sensor technologies for developing countries
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Development work on low cost sensors has been influential in setting the national and international agenda and NCAS has provided guidelines for the use of sensors for air pollution measurement in developing countries. Publications on the performance of sensors have been used by the World Meteorological Organisation in an advice note to governments on the application of sensors. Evidence has been provided to Defra and to Go-Science in the UK on the applicability and use of low cost NO2 sensors for regulatory measurements.
Title WMO methods statement on low cost sensors 
Description Production of guidance on the use of low cost sensors for the measurement of air pollution. 
Type Of Material Technology assay or reagent 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Adoption by international agencies as best practice for the use of sensors for air pollution research. 
URL https://public.wmo.int/en/resources/meteoworld/advice-low-cost-air-pollution-sensors
Title TSSE documents for the certification of new instruments on the FAAM aircraft 
Description Technical documentation to support new instruments on the FAAM aircraft for air pollution measurements on regional scales including: i) New TSSE (Technical Specification of Scientific Equipment) for Aerodyne Quantum Cascade laser fast methane/ethane analyser ii) Updated TSSE for aircraft GC-MS for detection of volatile organic compounds iii) Draft TSSE for a replacement whole air sampling system (WAS) on the FAAM aircraft for volatile organic compounds 
Type Of Technology New/Improved Technique/Technology 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact Creates new measurement capability for FAAM to address outstanding issues associated with regional scale pollution emissions and transformation. 
Description BBC World Service. Can Delhi clean up its air? 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Contribution to BBC programme on cleaning air in Delhi. Part of the World Service The Inquiry series.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3cswqtx
Description Lectures/talks/debates 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Three public lecture given on 'atmospheric pollution, from kerbside to global', part of the John Jeyes Award lecture series.
RSC Public lecture series on air pollution.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2015
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXspBhHcx2U
Description Media reports 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Article on major drivers of air pollution in China and possible policy solutions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://theconversation.com/what-china-must-do-to-fix-its-air-pollution-problem-38399
Description Public Lectures on atmospheric science 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation at Manchester Science Festival for the Penny University on air quality.
Presentation at Royal Society of Chemistry on air pollution
Presentation at York Festival of Science
Presentation at Cheltenham Science Festival
Presentation at Haye Festival
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014,2015