Riga airTEXT is a stand-out case of the use of the free and open data and ready-to-use information from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).
It is yet another showcase of the application of the Copernicus Services for the public good, business ideas and international cooperation.
The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service is one of the six operational services of the most ambitious Earth Observation and Monitoring programme in history, the European Union´s Copernicus programme. This service is aimed at supporting policymakers, businesses and citizens by providing free and open data about the present and forecasted status of the atmosphere in terms of pollen, NO2, ozone, Particulate Matter and a range of other pollutants, on a global basis but also with a higher resolution focus on Europe.
There are numerous business cases and applications using one or more CAMS information products, which demonstrate how societal and environmental challenges are being tackled using Copernicus data. Riga airTEXT is one of these examples.
What is Riga airTEXT?
The newly launched Riga airTEXT service is a free and independent service that twice daily provides the public with 3-day air quality forecasts, relying on CAMS information and data for pollutant levels. More specifically, the service regularly provides information about air quality, ultraviolet radiation (UV), pollen and temperature in Riga and thus, is especially useful for people who experience respiratory problems, heart diseases, allergies or have a weaker immune system. The Riga airTEXT forecasts are distributed through different channels: Riga airTEXT phone application (downloading the Android App on Google Play), Twitter, Facebook, SMS text messages as well as through its official website.
The Riga airTEXT service is based on an air quality modelling software developed by Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants (CERC), a British environmental consultancy. For Riga airTEXT, a local air quality model is combined with data derived from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) Regional Ensemble air quality forecast and weather forecasts from private provider Meteogroup.
Air pollutants, UV radiation and pollen forecasted by Riga airTEXT
The air quality as reported and forecasted by Riga airTEXT is gauged using information on the concentration of four major air pollutants. Based on the concentration of these pollutants a daily Air Quality Index (AQI)(see ) is derived for each of them. These four pollutants are: nitrogen dioxide (NO2), Particulate Matter (PM10, and PM2.5) and ozone (O3).
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a powerful oxidant which gets into the air we breathe typically through the burning of fuel, produced by power plants or vehicles. Thus, high levels of NO2 are, for example, a clear indicator of road traffic density. Also, natural phenomena contribute to the formation of NO2 in the air, e.g. volcanic activity, lightning, trees or plants. NO2 has adverse effects on our respiratory system as well as on cardiovascular functions.
Particulates or Particulate Matter (PM10) and (PM2.5) have the most significant effect on human health when compared to other athmospheric pollutants and clearly correlated with increased mortality rates. Particulate Matter are a complex mixture of solid and liquid, organic and inorganic particles in the air, e.g. nitrates, ammonia, black carbon, mineral dust, water, etc. The most health-damaging particles are those with a diameter of 10 microns or less (≤ PM10), which are measured and forecasted by Riga airTEXT.
Ozone (O3) is a crucial component of the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere that acts as a shield against the UV radiation. However, the ozone role as a protector changes the closer it gets to the Earth’s surface. At ground level, ozone participates in the formation of smog, which is aggravated by the sunlight and certain chemicals, for instance those of vehicle and industrial emissions. Ground-level ozone is damaging to lungs and is currently causing major concern throughout the European Union.
Alongside the air quality indicators, ultraviolet (UV) radiation is measured and forecasted by CAMS and reported by Riga airTEXT by taking into consideration the levels and effects of ozone, clouds and Particulate Matter. UV-light from the sun is essential for our bodies as they contribute to the production of Vitamin D, yet overexposure to UV rays is dangerous for health – it is closely associated with skin cancer, accelerated skin ageing and adverse effect on our eyes and immune system.
Riga airTEXT also provides daily forecasts about birch and grass pollen – a common allergen affecting 10-20% of the population in Europe. The pollen seasons triggers an allergic response with sensitive people. Even though pollen-induced allergies are seasonal, they can cause permanent effects. For instance, a long-term study (Settipane et al, 1994) showed that allergic rhinitis, a common form of pollen allergy, can develop into chronic asthma.
Riga airTEXT, a prime example of how the CAMS services can be used to support citizens and local authorities
Riga airTEXT is a step forward for public health care in the Latvian capital. Therefore, national authorities encourage the residents and visitors of Riga to use the Riga airTEXT forecasts, for example, to plan their trips outdoors.
“Air quality management is one of key priorities of the environmental protection policy in Latvia and the EU. The provision of information on air quality to the citizens, including alerts on possible short-term pollution accidents, is an important element of this policy. Riga airTEXT is a good way to show that air quality is not only policy documents, legal acts and scientific reports, but a vital factor in our everyday life, which often is taken for granted, while having significant impact of human health. Now Riga citizens will have access to important air quality data presented in a modern and user-friendly manner.” says Alda Ozola, Deputy State Secretary of Latvian Ministry of Environmental and Regional Development at the inauguration of the new service.
Riga airTEXT is yet another showcase of the application areas of the Copernicus Services for public good, business ideas and international cooperation. Richard Engelen, Deputy Head of CAMS stated: “The Riga airTEXT service is a prime example of how the CAMS services can be used to support local citizens. Small and Medium-sized enterprises using the data for new services at country and city-level is key to the success of the Copernicus programme.”
Riga airTEXT was developed and is operated by the Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants (CERC) Ltd, a British environmental consultancy and SIA Estonian, Lithuanian and Latvian Environment (ELLE), a local SME, in partnership with the Municipality of Riga and the Ministry of the Environment and Regional Development. The service was created following the airTEXT initial prototype, which provides forecasts for the regions of Greater London. The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) funded the development phase and the 2-year market trial phase of Riga airTEXT. The results of these two phases are available in the Public Final Report.