There has been some media coverage about air pollution issues in the UK today, so what’s really going on?
It is true to say that since Tuesday this week the UK has seen elevated levels of air pollution. This is mainly due to high pressure dominating over the country, which means a lack of wind and atmospheric circulation which would normally disperse pollution.
This allows pollution from things like cars and industry to build up in the lower atmosphere, affecting our air quality. This means much of the pollution we are seeing is due to home-grown sources, but with some contribution of pollution from the continent.
As you can see from the current air quality forecast on Defra’s air quality pages, whilst most areas of the country are seeing moderate or low levels of pollutants today, some areas are seeing high levels.
The situation is improving, however, with air quality levels expected to return to a normal level over the next couple of days.
Levels we have seen over the past few days and today are by no means unusual – we expect to see conditions similar to this several times a year.
The air pollution is also nowhere near record levels – in fact, we saw higher levels than this during a period of poor air quality at about the same time last year.
It’s also worth noting that the current air quality issues don’t fit any scientific definition of smog – which is a term which describes a mixture of smoke and fog.
There’s no fog around at the moment and smoke would only be a tiny fraction of any contribution to the poorer air quality we’re currently seeing.
The main effects of the current conditions will be felt by individuals with existing heart or respiratory conditions, who may experience increased symptoms. More health advice is available online on Defra’s air quality pages.
Throughout the next couple of days, the Met Office will continue to work closely with Defra, Public Health England and Public Health Wales to ensure they have the most up-to-date and accurate air quality forecasts in order to provide relevant advice to the public.