Empty skies proved that airports cause pollution, say researchers
Scientists have used the no-flying period caused by the ash cloud to show for the first time that airports are themselves significant causes of pollution. Although long suspected, the fact that mass take-offs and landings are large pollution sources could never be proved before, because aircraft pollution could not be measured as separate from the pollution caused by vehicles operating near by.
But an analysis of the first three days of the unprecedented closure of UK airspace, at Heathrow and Gatwick, shows that there is a definite air pollution caused by air traffic in the vicinity of airport hubs.
Pollution near both airports dropped significantly during the first three days of the shutdown. During last Thursday, Friday and Saturday, levels of two major pollutants, NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) and NOx (the generic term for oxides of nitrogen, taken together) fell virtually to zero.
Such nitrogen pollutants can exacerbate breathing difficulties in older people and those suffering from cardiac conditions, and can react with sunlight to form an even more damaging pollutant, ozone, which causes the sort of "urban smogs" seen in Los Angeles. NOx and NO2 are particularly associated with jet aircraft, as they are produced by the high-temperature mix of aviation with fuel.
The new analysis has been produced by Ben Barratt and Gary Fuller of the Environmental Research Group at King's College, London. The group said yesterday: "This period of unprecedented closure during unexceptional weather conditions has allowed us to demonstrate that the airports have a clear measurable effect on NO2 concentrations, and that this effect disappeared entirely during the period of closure, leading to a temporary but significant fall in pollutant concentrations adjacent to the airport perimeters."
"We have always been fairly confident that there was this 'airport effect' but we have never been able to show it," Dr Barratt commented. "The closure gave us the opportunity to look at it, and there is a very strong indication that it is the case."
The researchers are also going to study the pollution effects of the fall in airport motor traffic during the shutdown. Ed Dearnley, of Environmental Protection UK, which specialises in air quality campaigning, said yesterday: "This has been an excellent opportunity to find out exactly what the environmental impact of airports really is."
Arsenal strengthened their grip on a top-four finish with a straightforward 3-0 win over Hull City.
Conquering Everest: 60 facts about the world's tallest mountain
The 10 best folding bikes
Not so Lonesome George: Researchers find 17 other tortoises in the Galapagos Islands similar to famous centenarian reptile
10 best hiking boots
Flower power takes hold again as gardeners rally round the endangered bumblebee
- 1 Easter egg hunt horror as mother finds dead body under deck of house
- 2 'Natural' energy drink banned for containing erectile dysfunction drug
- 3 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 4 Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
- 5 How We Met: Alison Moyet & Emma Kennedy: 'I knew we'd be friends because she was happy to make a prat of herself'
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
'Sinful': Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy comes under attack
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
Refugee facing deportation from Sweden saved by fellow passengers refusing to let plane leave
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...
£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...