scientists test pollution in the sky
and students from Leeds will need strong stomachs as they
bounce through the clouds on a specially equipped plane
to test pollution levels in the atmosphere around West
Yorkshire. The plane will be travelling at just 1000ft
for much of its work, so will be clearly visible to the
co-ordinator, environment lecturer Dr Alastair Lewis,
said: "We must be the only people at the moment who want
this wild weather to continue. One important strand to
our research is looking at how quickly pollutants are
lifted up in frontal weather systems. Under these conditions
pollutants can go from the surface to four or five km
high in less than an hour. We have to take measurements
through the cloud bands, which won't make for the most
comfortable of trips."
for take-off Jim McQuaid (above right) and
Alastair Lewis (left) beside the plane, and (below),
the interior crammed with specialised equipment.
of the chemical compounds involved are unstable, so samples
will be whisked off to University laboratories as soon
as the plane lands, for immediate analysis.
West Yorkshire Ð and specifically Leeds Ð as the pollution
source, scientists are hoping to improve their understanding
of the complex relationship between the chemistry of pollution
and the weather, and the results will be relevant not
just for the city, but for the whole of the UK.
Dr Jim McQuaid: "It's often hard to predict pollution
levels in UK cities, because although emissions generally
stay the same, the weather can cause big differences in
what gets carried away and what gets trapped. Our findings
will help agencies make more accurate predictions."
research also has an international impact. As weather
systems cross the Atlantic, they pick up pollution from
the UK. Predictions of pollution levels in mainland Europe
are made difficult as background levels there are affected
by fluctuations in whatever the UK exports. The results
from this research will provide much needed information
for overseas agencies.
project is a collaboration between the German aerospace
and space research centre, which supplied the plane, and
the universities of Leeds and Lancaster.