Using models for air quality assessment and planning: a guide

News Published 26 Sep 2011 Last modified 23 Nov 2020
2 min read
Computer models are increasingly used for estimating air quality or forecasting changes in pollution levels. Various different models are currently used across Europe. The new FAIRMODE reference guide aims to make these models comparable, well documented and validated in order to achieve reliable results.

In the past, assessment and reporting of air quality was largely based on monitored measurement data. This is changing - the European Directive on Ambient Air Quality and Cleaner Air for Europe (2008) places more emphasis on the use of models as a complement to monitoring data in order to conduct air quality assessment, forecasting and planning.

There is a pressing need to harmonise the way these models are applied since they have been used in various forms and with differing and often incomparable quality assurance methods across Europe, at both national and local levels.

The Forum for Air Quality Modelling in Europe (FAIRMODE) was established in 2008 in order to facilitate model comparability, documentation and reliability. FAIRMODE is a joint initiative of the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC). The FAIRMODE technical reference guide published today is an output of that initiative. It provides a general overview of the use of models with regard to the EU’s Air Quality Directives.

The report includes a list of first recommendations for developing model evaluation protocols. As modelling methods and data sources improve, it is expected that models will increasingly be used by those working to improve air quality. This report and future guidance documents from FAIRMODE are intended to support this development by providing recommendations and clarifications.

How are air quality models used?

  • Assessing the existing air quality situation – for example showing exceedances of EU or national air quality standards, calculating population exposure to pollution and health impacts, and identifying contributions of air pollutants from different sources.
  • Air quality forecasting – many national, regional and local authorities have established forecasting systems to warn the public when air pollution episodes are expected.
  • Air quality planning identifying possible measures to reduce emissions, and developing emissions reduction scenarios.

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