This map shows a pollution "nowcast", which is a service to show current pollution levels in detail across London in comparison with the Government's Air Pollution Index.
Currently this service is occasionally displaying old pollution images. We are working on a fix for this, but please refresh your browser (e.g. using F5) or clear your cache if you are experiencing problems.
It is created by combining readings taken within the last hour and air pollution modelling in London.
As you zoom into the map you will see which areas are currently experiencing higher pollution levels than others, usually those areas
close to busy roads. More information about the Air Pollution Index and health advice associated with each index level can be seen
What is the combined nowcast?
The combined nowcast is made by merging together the four pollutant nowcasts (nitrogen dioxide(NO2),ozone(O3),
PM10 particles(PM10) and PM2.5 particles(PM2.5)), taking the highest of the air pollution index at each location. For example, if the forecast
or measurement for ozone(O3) is Moderate and for PM10 particles(PM10) it is Low, the overall index assigned will be Moderate.
There is no provision
within the index to take into account the possible effects of a mixture of pollutants (COMEAP, 2011). London is affected by different types
of pollution episodes. For instance ozone(O3) will likely dominate the index during summer time smog and PM2.5 particles(PM2.5) will likely
dominate during winter time smog and during episodes where particle pollution comes to us from mainland Europe.
Measurements from monitoring stations are only able to report air quality at
that particular place. The nowcast combines these measurements with our detailed model to show a prediction of what air
quality is like across the whole of Greater London.
Why do you use only four pollutants?
The four pollutants chosen are ones which are known to have an effect on health within London
and are able to be predicted with this model. Levels of carbon monoxide (CO) are now well below EU Limit Values and have not been mapped,
However this pollutant remains important in the formation of ozone(O3) across the northern-hemisphere and indoors, exposure to CO
from faulty heating and cooking appliances can be dangerous. Concentrations of sulphur dioxide (SO2) are too unpredictable to
create a map using this method. Each pollutant has different sources and behaviour, so try selecting each pollutant in turn to get a full
picture of air quality at your chosen location.
Why does pollution appear to be low everywhere?
Often air pollution levels in most areas of London are sufficiently small to be classified as low according to the air quality index.
When this index was created these levels were considered unlikely to cause any adverse health effects.
There is currently debate about whether there is any safe level for these pollutants.
Much of the pollution in London is associated with traffic and zooming in to show individual roads will usually reveal
locations where pollution levels are higher.
How accurate is it?
Based on comparison of nowcast and measurements from monitoring sites we expect the
nowcast to be a good visualisation of measured data to within half an index value for most locations. The 20m resolution of the model is not able to fully represent
pollution concentrations within a few metres of roads and very localised sources of PM10 particles (PM10). We will be monitoring the
performance of the nowcast and expect to be adjusting and improving it over time. A current indication of nowcast accuracy is available
Why is ozone(O3) lower in the middle of London?
Some of the pollution created by cars reacts with ozone(O3) and causes it to change
into other chemicals. This means that ozone(O3) is on average lower in the middle of London and close to busy roads.