22 November 2016 11:19

Lancaster University scientists are taking part in one of the largest ever studies of urban air pollution.

Scientists from Lancaster’s Atmosphere, Pollution and Climate research group are in Beijing this month as part of a joint UK/China project studying air pollution in the capital city of China.

The project, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, the Medical Research Council, the Newton Fund and the Natural National Science Foundation of China, comprises more than 30 research groups and 200 scientists and is one of the biggest studies of urban air pollution to ever have taken place.

The aims of the project, based at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Atmospheric Physics in central Beijing, are to study the sources, chemistry and health effects of air pollution in Beijing, one of the world’s most populous cities.

The Lancaster team is contributing two areas of expertise to the project in collaboration with Chinese colleagues. Dr Oliver Wild and his post-doctoral research associate, Michael Hollaway, are modelling the emissions and chemistry of reactive air pollutants, while Professor Nick Hewitt, post-doctoral research associate Joe Acton and laboratory manager Brian Davison are measuring the emission rates of organic pollutants.

Speaking from Beijing, Professor Hewitt said: “In the last few days, air quality in central Beijing has been very poor, with visibility reduced to a few hundred metres, providing an ideal opportunity for studying air pollution in the city. There was a thick misty haze in the air and when the sun sets the city lights reflect downwards producing a deep red glow. But yesterday much cleaner and colder air came down from the north bringing some light rain and snow. This morning, the air quality is much better and visibility is very good, although it is very cold.”

The team will return to Beijing in May and June 2017, before taking part in a similar study in Delhi in 2018.