Air quality models have achieved a great degree of sophistication over the last few years thanks mainly to scientific and computational advances. These are tools that simulate the dynamics of the atmosphere and estimate the impact of particular sources of contamination such as industries or traffic on air quality so that plans and decisions can then be made according to the produced results.
The Grupo de Modelos y Software para el medio Ambiente of the Facultad de Informática at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid has developed a very sophisticated tool (OPANA) that estimates the impact of air quality on the health of citizens using last generation models.
This tool is based on very advanced numerical methods that produce extremely precise measurements of the concentration of a certain atmospheric contaminant that a person breathes in a determined time and place, from a particular source (an industry, an incinerator, a motorway, etc.). It is possible to determine the consequent impact under almost any circumstances or distance from the source thanks to the enormous calculating power available today.
In order to ensure that the obtained results are reliable, it is necessary to introduce accurate data into the tool. The tool requires detailed information about the topography of the site under study, the different uses of land obtained through remote sensing, meteorological information, relevant information about the surroundings of the area under study, and above all an accurate estimate of the emissions that occur in the area and its surroundings.
With these tools, it is possible to evaluate the impact that a new industry would have on the atmospheric contamination of an area and carry out experiments using different scenarios to be compared against the current conditions. In this way, the best decisions can be made to protect the health of inhabitants of the area.
- Sanjose et al. The evaluation of the air quality impact of an incinerator by using MM5-CMAQ-EMIMO modeling system: North of Spain case study. Environment International, 2008; 34 (5): 714 DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2007.12.010
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