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The importance of weather stations for ambient air quality

Published on 10 October, 2023

Pollution and outdoor air quality,

Air quality is determined by many factors, including meteorological conditions. This is why weather stations are essential tools to take into account when monitoring both emissions and air quality.

How do weather conditions affect air quality?

As mentioned above, meteorological conditions have a significant impact on air quality.

Wind patterns can often carry pollutants over long distances, meaning that air quality in one area can be affected by emissions from another location.

When these emissions contain pollutants such as sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) – usually produced by burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil – they can react with moisture to form acids. These acids fall to the ground as precipitation, forming acid rain, an environmental phenomenon that is devastating to vegetation, soils and aquatic environments.

Another event with a major environmental impact is the formation of tropospheric ozone, caused by the reaction between solar radiation and the presence of chemical precursors in the atmosphere, mainly nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Tropospheric ozone has a serious impact on human health, affecting the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.

And let’s not forget thermal inversion, an atmospheric phenomenon that occurs when a layer of warm air is trapped between two layers of cold air. A thermal inversion usually occurs on clear mornings or evenings with light winds, when heat rapidly dissipates from the surface, cooling the layer closer to the ground even more than the layer immediately above it.

The main problem with this phenomenon is that it can trap pollutants close to the surface, leading to a build-up of pollutants in urban areas and worsening air quality.

This is why it is so important to have meteorological stations in both public and private air quality networks to help predict and assess air quality and take appropriate preventive measures.

What is a weather station and what is its function?

A weather station is a set of instruments and devices designed to measure and record various atmospheric parameters such as temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind speed and direction, precipitation and solar radiation.

One of the main components of weather stations are the sensors, i.e. the devices responsible for measuring meteorological parameters. Depending on the type of sensor and its design, one or more parameters can be monitored simultaneously.

Weather stations also include a data logger, which is the component responsible for recording and storing the data collected by the sensors, usually in real time.

In addition, it is important to be able to transmit the collected data to control centres for further analysis, so the vast majority of weather stations have integrated communication systems.

Information from weather station data is vital for a wide range of applications, including weather forecasting, scientific research, agriculture, aviation and, of course, environmental monitoring.

Which sensors does a weather station use?

Although the meteorological sensors used in a station may vary depending on the data to be collected, the most frequently used are:

  • The thermometer, used to measure air temperature.
  • A hygrometer, used to record the relative humidity of the air.
  • A barometer, used to measure atmospheric pressure.
  • An anemometer, used to calculate wind speed and a wind vane to determine wind direction. Sensors that include both functions are often used.
  • The rain gauge, which collects the amount of water in precipitation.
  • A radiometer to measure solar radiation.

For reliable and accurate data acquisition it is very important to have maintenance plans in place to keep these sensors in good working condition. It is necessary to verify the orientation of the direction sensors, check the signals of both the instruments and the communications and of course not forgetting to check all the mechanical elements that may be present in the installation.

In this article on weather sensors you can find more detailed information about what they are and what they are used for.

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