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Trends in Air Pollution in Europe, 2000–2019
This paper encompasses an assessment of air pollution trends in rural environments in Europe over the 2000–2019 period, benefiting from extensive long-term observational data from the EMEP monitoring network and EMEP MSC-W model computations. The trends in pollutant concentrations align with the decreasing emission patterns observed throughout Europe. Annual average concentrations of sulfur dioxide, particulate sulfate, and sulfur wet deposition have shown consistent declines of 3-4% annually since 2000. Similarly, oxidized nitrogen species have markedly decreased across Europe, with an annual reduction of 1.5-2% in nitrogen dioxide concentrations, total nitrate in the air, and oxidized nitrogen deposition. Notably, emission reductions and model predictions appear to slightly surpass the observed declines in sulfur and oxidized nitrogen, indicating a potential overestimation of reported emission reductions. Ammonia emissions have decreased less compared to other pollutants since 2000. Significant reductions in particulate ammonium have however, been achieved due to the impact of reductions in SOx and NOx emissions. For ground level ozone, both the observed and modelled peak levels in summer show declining trends, although the observed decline is smaller than modelled. There have been substantial annual reductions of 1.8% and 2.4% in the concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5, respectively. Elemental carbon has seen a reduction of approximately 4.5% per year since 2000. A similar reduction for organic carbon is only seen in winter when primary anthropogenic sources dominate. The observed improvements in European air quality emphasize the importance of comprehensive legislations to mitigate emissions.
Optical and Microphysical Properties of the Aerosols during a Rare Event of Biomass-Burning Mixed with Polluted Dust
A rare event of mixed biomass-burning and polluted dust aerosols was observed over Athens, Greece (37.9° N, 23.6° E), during 21–26 May 2014. This event was studied using a synergy of a 6-wavelength elastic-Raman-depolarization lidar measurements, a CIMEL sun photometer, and in situ instrumentation. The FLEXPART dispersion model was used to identify the aerosol sources and quantify the contribution of dust and black carbon particles to the mass concentration. The identified air masses were found to originate from Kazakhstan and Saharan deserts, under a rare atmospheric pressure system. The lidar ratio (LR) values retrieved from the Raman lidar ranged within 25–89 sr (355 nm) and 35–70 sr (532 nm). The particle linear depolarization ratio (δaer) ranged from 7 to 28% (532 nm), indicating mixing of dust with biomass-burning particles. The aerosol optical depth (AOD) values derived from the lidar ranged from 0.09–0.43 (355 nm) to 0.07–0.25 (532 nm). An inversion algorithm was used to derive the mean aerosol microphysical properties (mean effective radius (reff), single scattering albedo (SSA), and mean complex refractive index (m)) inside selected atmospheric layers. We found that reff was 0.12–0.51 (±0.04) µm, SSA was 0.94–0.98 (±0.19) (at 532 nm), while m ranged between 1.39 (±0.05) + 0.002 (±0.001)i and 1.63 (±0.05) + 0.008 (±0.004)i. The polarization lidar photometer networking (POLIPHON) algorithm was used to estimate the vertical profile of the mass concentration for the dust and non-dust components. A mean mass concentration of 15 ± 5 μg m−3 and 80 ± 29 μg m−3 for smoke and dust was estimated for selected days, respectively. Finally, the retrieved aerosol microphysical properties were compared with column-integrated sun photometer CIMEL data with good agreement
A scalable method for identifying key indicators to assess urban environmental sustainability: A case study in Norway
Urbanization presents numerous societal challenges and exacerbates environmental issues. It is crucial to comprehend the current state and future direction of cities to formulate strategies and actions that mitigate negative consequences while ensuring a prosperous future for citizens. This study presents a universally applicable method for selecting indicators to gauge urban environmental sustainability. It aims to aid in structuring thinking for understanding and implementing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within urban settings, using Norway as a case study but with a clear potential for broader applications. To achieve this, a comprehensive literature survey was conducted to gain insight into how urban environmental sustainability is conceptualized and operationalized in Norway. This involved assessing the key environmental challenges, as well as the strategies and action plans associated with them. Standardized sustainable cities' indicators served as references, which were then tailored to the municipal level to address the identified environmental challenges specific to Norwegian cities. Furthermore, the study discussed the proposed indicators for tracking the progress and state of these specific environmental challenges. In doing so, it establishes a foundation for comprehending environmental issues and establishing connections between indicators and environmental strategies and action plans in the urban sustainability context. Importantly, the methodologies and indicators we have unveiled in this study are designed to be applicable to cities beyond Norway, offering a scalable and adaptable approach for evaluating environmental challenges internationally. This work proposes a novel approach for evaluating the status and trends of environmental challenges by employing targeted indicators. These indicators can be expanded to include social and economic dimensions, enabling decision-makers and stakeholders to prioritize actions towards urban sustainability.
Microfiber emissions from wastewater effluents: abundance, transport behavior and exposure risk for biota in an arctic fjord
Microfibers (MF) are one of the major classes of microplastic found in the marine environment on a global scale. Very little is known about how they move and distribute from point sources such as wastewater effluents into the ocean. We chose Adventfjorden near the settlement of Longyearbyen on the Arctic Svalbard archipelago as a case study to investigate how microfibers emitted with untreated wastewater will distribute in the fjord, both on a spatial and temporal scale. Fiber abundance in the effluent was estimated from wastewater samples taken during two one-week periods in June and September 2017. Large emissions of MFs were detected, similar in scale to a modern WWTP serving 1.3 million people and providing evidence of the importance of untreated wastewater from small settlements as major local sources for MF emissions in the Arctic. Fiber movement and distribution in the fjord mapped using an online-coupled hydrodynamic-drift model (FVCOM-FABM). For parameterizing a wider spectrum of fibers from synthetic to wool, four different density classes of MFs, i.e., buoyant, neutral, sinking, and fast sinking fibers are introduced to the modeling framework. The results clearly show that fiber class has a large impact on the fiber distributions. Light fibers remained in the surface layers and left the fjord quickly with outgoing currents, while heavy fibers mostly sank to the bottom and deposited in the inner parts of the fjord and along the northern shore. A number of accumulation sites were identified within the fjord. The southern shore, in contrast, was much less affected, with low fiber concentrations throughout the modeling period. Fiber distributions were then compared with published pelagic and benthic fauna distributions in different seasons at selected stations around the fjord. The ratios of fibers to organisms showed a very wide range, indicating hot spots of encounter risk for pelagic and benthic biota. This approach, in combination with in-situ ground-truthing, can be instrumental in understanding microplastic pathways and fate in fjord systems and coastal areas and help authorities develop monitoring and mitigation strategies for microfiber and microplastic pollution in their local waters.
Frontiers Media S.A.
Trends in polar ozone loss since 1989: potential sign of recovery in the Arctic ozone column
Ozone depletion over the polar regions is monitored each year by satellite- and ground-based instruments. In this study, the vortex-averaged ozone loss over the last 3 decades is evaluated for both polar regions using the passive ozone tracer of the chemical transport model TOMCAT/SLIMCAT and total ozone observations from Système d'Analyse par Observation Zénithale (SAOZ) ground-based instruments and Multi-Sensor Reanalysis (MSR2). The passive-tracer method allows us to determine the evolution of the daily rate of column ozone destruction and the magnitude of the cumulative column loss at the end of the winter. Three metrics are used in trend analyses that aim to assess the ozone recovery rate over both polar regions: (1) the maximum ozone loss at the end of the winter, (2) the onset day of ozone loss at a specific threshold, and (3) the ozone loss residuals computed from the differences between annual ozone loss and ozone loss values regressed with respect to sunlit volume of polar stratospheric clouds (VPSCs). This latter metric is based on linear and parabolic regressions for ozone loss in the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere, respectively. In the Antarctic, metrics 1 and 3 yield trends of −2.3 % and −2.2 % per decade for the 2000–2021 period, significant at 1 and 2 standard deviations (σ), respectively. For metric 2, various thresholds were considered at the total ozone loss values of 20 %, 25 %, 30 %, 35 %, and 40 %, all of them showing a time delay as a function of year in terms of when the threshold is reached. The trends are significant at the 2σ level and vary from 3.5 to 4.2 d per decade between the various thresholds. In the Arctic, metric 1 exhibits large interannual variability, and no significant trend is detected; this result is highly influenced by the record ozone losses in 2011 and 2020. Metric 2 is not applied in the Northern Hemisphere due to the difficulty in finding a threshold value in enough of the winters. Metric 3 provides a negative trend in Arctic ozone loss residuals with respect to the sunlit VPSC fit of −2.00 ± 0.97 (1σ) % per decade, with limited significance at the 2σ level. With such a metric, a potential quantitative detection of ozone recovery in the Arctic springtime lower stratosphere can be made.
Reassessing the role of urban green space in air pollution control
The assumption that vegetation improves air quality is prevalent in scientific, popular, and political discourse. However, experimental and modeling studies show the effect of green space on air pollutant concentrations in urban settings is highly variable and context specific. We revisited the link between vegetation and air quality using satellite- derived changes of urban green space and air pollutant concentrations from 2,615 established monitoring stations over Europe and the United States. Between 2010 and 2019, stations recorded declines in ambient NO2, (particulate matter) PM10, and PM2.5 (average of −3.14% y−1), but not O3 (+0.5% y−1), pointing to the general success of recent policy interventions to restrict anthropogenic emissions. The effect size of total green space on air pollution was weak and highly variable, particularly at the street scale (15 to 60 m radius) where vegetation can restrict ventilation. However, when isolating changes in tree cover, we found a negative association with air pollution at borough to city scales (120 to 16,000 m) particularly for O3 and PM. The effect of green space was smaller than the pollutant deposition and dispersion effects of meteorological drivers including precipitation, humidity, and wind speed. When averaged across spatial scales, a one SD increase in green space resulted in a 0.8% (95% CI: −3.5 to 2%) decline in air pollution. Our findings suggest that while urban greening may improve air quality at the borough- to- city scale, the impact is moderate and may have detrimental street- level effects depending on aerodynamic factors like vegetation type and urban form.
vegetation | urban planning | green infrastructure | ecosystem service | public health
Query-driven Qualitative Constraint Acquisition
Many planning, scheduling or multi-dimensional packing problems involve the design of subtle logical combinations of temporal or spatial constraints. Recently, we introduced GEQCA-I, which stands for Generic Qualitative Constraint Acquisition, as a new active constraint acquisition method for learning qualitative constraints using qualitative queries. In this paper, we revise and extend GEQCA-I to GEQCA-II with a new type of query, universal query, for qualitative constraint acquisition, with a deeper query-driven acquisition algorithm. Our extended experimental evaluation shows the efficiency and usefulness of the concept of universal query in learning randomly-generated qualitative networks, including both temporal networks based on Allen’s algebra and spatial networks based on region connection calculus. We also show the effectiveness of GEQCA-II in learning the qualitative part of real scheduling problems.
Design of multi-luminescent silica-based nanoparticles for the detection of liquid organic compounds
Tracer testing in reservoir formations is utilised to determine residual oil saturation as part of optimum hydrocarbon production. Here, we present a novel detection method of liquid organic compounds by monodisperse SiO2 nanoparticles (NPs) containing two luminophores, a EuIII:EDTA complex and a newly synthesised fluorophore based on the organic boron-dipyrromethene (BODIPY)-moiety. The particles exhibited stable EuIII PL emission intensity with a long lifetime in aqueous dispersion. The fluorescence of the BODIPY was also preserved in the aqueous environment. The ratiometric PL detection technique was demonstrated by using toluene and 1-octanol as model compounds of crude oil. The optimal synthesis conditions were found to give NPs with a diameter of ~100 nm, which is suitable for transport through porous oil reservoir structures. The cytotoxicity of the NPs was confirmed to be very low for human lung cell and fish cell lines. These findings demonstrate the potential of the NPs to replace the hazardous chemicals used to estimate the residual oil saturation. Moreover, the ratiometric PL detection technique is anticipated to be of benefit in other fields, such as biotechnology, medical diagnostics, and environmental monitoring, where a reliable and safe detection of a liquid organic phase is needed.
The challenges of opportunistic sampling when comparing prevalence of plastics in diving seabirds: A multi-species example from Norway
There is a need for baseline information about how much plastics are ingested by wildlife and potential negative consequences thereof. We analysed the frequency of occurrence (FO) of plastics >1 mm in the stomachs of five pursuit-diving seabird species collected opportunistically.
Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica) found emaciated on beaches in SW Norway had the highest FO of plastics (58.8 %), followed by emaciated common guillemots (Uria aalge; 9.1 %) also found beached in either SW or SE Norway. No plastics were detected in razorbills (Alca torda), great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo), and European shags (Gulosus aristotelis) taken as bycatch in northern Norway. This is the first study to report on plastic ingestion of these five species in northern Europe, and it highlights both the usefulness and limitations of opportunistic sampling. Small sample sizes, as well as an unbalanced sample design, complicated the interpretation of the results.
Phthalate contamination in marine mammals off the Norwegian coast
Phthalates are used in plastics, found throughout the marine environment and have the potential to cause adverse health effects. In the present study, we quantified blubber concentrations of 11 phthalates in 16 samples from stranded and/or free-living marine mammals from the Norwegian coast: the killer whale (Orcinus orca), sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas), white-beaked dolphin (Lagenorhynchus albirostris), harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena), and harbour seal (Phoca vitulina). Five compounds were detected across all samples: benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP; in 50 % of samples), bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP; 33 %), diisononyl phthalate (DiNP; 33 %), diisobutyl phthalate (DiBP; 19 %), and dioctyl phthalate (DOP; 13 %). Overall, the most contaminated individual was the white-beaked dolphin, whilst the lowest concentrations were measured in the killer whale, sperm whale and long-finned pilot whale. We found no phthalates in the neonate killer whale. The present study is important for future monitoring and management of these toxic compounds.
Retrieval of Aerosol Optical Properties via an All-Sky Imager and Machine Learning: Uncertainty in Direct Normal Irradiance Estimations
Quality-assured aerosol optical properties (AOP) with high spatiotemporal resolution are vital for the accurate estimation of direct aerosol radiative forcing and solar irradiance under clear skies. In this study, the sky information from an all-sky imager (ASI) is used with machine learning (ML) synergy to estimate aerosol optical depth (AOD) and the Ångström Exponent (AE). The retrieved AODs (AE) revealed good accuracy, with a dispersion error lower than 0.07 (0.15). The retrieved ML AOPs are used to estimate the DNI by applying radiative transfer modeling. The estimated ML DNI calculations revealed adequate accuracy to reproduce reference measurements with relatively low uncertainties.
PM2.5 Retrieval Using Aerosol Optical Depth, Meteorological Variables, and Artificial Intelligence
Particulate matter (PM) is one of the major air pollutants that has adverse impacts on human health. The aim of this study is to present an alternative approach for retrieving fine PM (particles with an aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 μm, PM2.5) using artificial intelligence. Ground-based instruments, including a hand-held Microtops II sun photometer (for aerosol optical depth), a PurpleAir sensor (for PM2.5), and Rotronic sensors (for temperature and relative humidity), are used for the machine learning algorithm training. The retrieved PM2.5 reveals an adequate performance with an error of 0.08 μg m−3 and a Pearson correlation coefficient of 0.84.
Simulations of Sky Radiances in Red and Blue Channels at Various Aerosol Conditions Using Radiative Transfer Modeling
We conducted a theoretical analysis of the relationship between red-to-blue (RBR) color intensities and aerosol optical properties. RBR values are obtained by radiative transfer simulations of diffuse sky radiances. Changes in atmospheric aerosol concentration (parametrized by aerosol optical depth, AOD), particle’s size distribution (parametrized by Ångström exponent, AE) and aerosols’ scattering (parametrized by single scattering albedo—SSA) lead to variability in sky radiances and, thus, affect the RBR ratio. RBR is highly sensitive to AOD as high aerosol load in the atmosphere causes high RBR. AE seems to strongly affect the RBR, while SSA effect the RBR, but not to such a great extent.
Decreasing trends of ammonia emissions over Europe seen from remote sensing and inverse modelling
Ammonia (NH3), a significant precursor of particulate matter, affects not only biodiversity, ecosystems, and soil acidification but also climate and human health. In addition, its concentrations are constantly rising due to increasing feeding needs and the large use of fertilization and animal farming. Despite the significance of ammonia, its emissions are associated with large uncertainties, while its atmospheric abundance is difficult to measure. Nowadays, satellite products can effectively measure ammonia with low uncertainty and a global coverage. Here, we use satellite observations of column ammonia in combination with an inversion algorithm to derive ammonia emissions with a high resolution over Europe for the period 2013–2020. Ammonia emissions peak in northern Europe due to agricultural application and livestock management, in western Europe (industrial activity), and over Spain (pig farming). Emissions have decreased by −26 % since 2013 (from 5431 Gg in 2013 to 3994 Gg in 2020), showing that the abatement strategies adopted by the European Union have been very efficient. The slight increase (+4.4 %) in 2015 is also reproduced here and is attributed to some European countries exceeding annual emission targets. Ammonia emissions are low in winter (286 Gg) and peak in summer (563 Gg) and are dominated by the temperature-dependent volatilization of ammonia from the soil. The largest emission decreases were observed in central and eastern Europe (−38 %) and in western Europe (−37 %), while smaller decreases were recorded in northern (−17 %) and southern Europe (−7.6 %). When complemented with ground observations, modelled concentrations using the posterior emissions showed improved statistics, also following the observed seasonal trends. The posterior emissions presented here also agree well with respective estimates reported in the literature and inferred from bottom-up and top-down methodologies. These results indicate that satellite measurements combined with inverse algorithms constitute a robust tool for emission estimates and can infer the evolution of ammonia emissions over large timescales.
Opinion of the Scientific Committee on health, environmental and emerging risks on the safety of titanium dioxide in toys
The Opinion of the Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks advises the European Commission on whether the uses of titanium dioxide in toys and toy materials can be considered to be safe in light of the identified exposure, and the classification of titanium dioxide as carcinogenic category 2 after inhalation. Four toy products including casting kits, chalk, powder paints and white colour pencils containing various amounts of TiO2 as colouring agent were evaluated for inhalation risks. For the oral route, childrens’ lip gloss/lipstick, finger paint and white colour pencils were evaluated.
When it can be demonstrated with high certainty that no ultrafine fraction is present in pigmentary TiO2 preparations used in toys and toy materials, safe use with no or negligible risk for all products considered is indicated based on the exposure estimations of this Opinion. However, if an ultrafine fraction is assumed to be present, safe use is not indicated, except for white colour pencils.
Enhanced electrochemical activity of boron-doped nanocarbon functionalized reticulated vitreous carbon structures for water treatment applications
An extraordinary charge transfer kinetics and chemical stability make a boron-doped diamond (BDD) a promising material for electrochemical applications including wastewater treatment. Yet, with flat geometrical surfaces its scaling options are limited. In this study, the reticulated Vitreous Carbon (RVC) served as a substrate for boron-doped diamondized nanocarbons (BDNC) film growth resulting with complex heterogeneity carbon structures with different morphologies defined by using electron microscopy, microtomography, activation energy studies, and Raman spectroscopy.
The proposed modification significantly boosted the electrochemical Fe(CN)63−/4− redox activity. The voltammetry and impedimetric studies revealed its origin as a significantly higher share of electrochemically active sites at the BDNC@RVC electrode (increased by 114 %) combined with enhanced heterogeneous rate constant (2× increase up to 8.24·10−4 cm s−1). Finally, to establish its applicability for water treatment, the BDNC@RVC was studied as the anode in electrochemical paracetamol decomposition. Boron-enriched nanoarchitecture formed at the RVC electrode surface substantially reduced the oxidation energy barrier manifested as a decrease in activation overpotential by 212 mV, which gave a consequence in a 78 % removal rate (in 4 h, at 0.7 mA cm−2), 12 % higher than bare RVC and yielding lower amounts of APAP decomposition intermediates.
Analysis of nitro- and oxy-PAH emissions from a pilot scale silicon process with flue gas recirculation
Silicon alloys are produced by carbothermic reduction of quartz in a submerged arc furnace. This high-temperature pyrolytic process is a source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are a group of aromatic organic molecules with known mutagenic and carcinogenic properties. In this study, the emission of oxy- and nitro-PAHs from a pilot-scale Si furnace, with varying process conditions such as oxygen level, flue gas recirculation (FGR), and off-gas flow, was investigated. Analysis shows the presence of both oxy- and nitro-PAH species in all experiments, believed to be formed from radical-induced substitution reactions initiated by SiO combustion and NOx formation. During Si production without FGR, the levels of oxy- and nitro-PAHs range between 1.1 and 4.4 μg Nm−3, independent of the flue gas flow rate. With increasing FGR (0–82.5%) and decreasing oxygen level (20.7–13.3%), the concentrations of both oxy- and nitro-PAHs increase to 36.6 and 65.9 μg Nm−3, respectively. When the levels of substituted PAHs increase, species such as 4-nitropyrene and 1,2-benzanthraquinone are in abundance compared to their parent PAHs. Experiments at lower flue gas flow (500 Nm3 h−1 versus 1000 Nm3 h−1) generally produce less substituted PAHs, as well as SiO2 particulate matter and NOx, where the latter two parameters have a 99% correlation in this study.
Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)