Science - January 28, 2016

Public to measure air quality

Roelof Kleis

Air quality in cities is being increasingly closely monitored. But there are few measuring stations as these are too expensive. So Matthijs Danes at Alterra is getting the crowd to work for him.

Using state-of-the-art sensor technology, everyone can play at being a scientist. And that is exactly what Danes is aiming at: to use simple technology to establish a dense measuring network for getting an accurate picture of the air quality in Amsterdam. He can get going now thanks to funding from the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS).

The air quality in Amsterdam is measured in several different ways, explains Danes. ‘The GGD has a network with 12 measuring locations. And the RIVM has two measuring stations in the city as well.’ This provides a reasonable picture for the city as a whole, but little is known about local differences on a small scale.

Danes wants to see whether the blind spots between the stations can be filled in with the help of the public. He is focusing on the Valkenburgstraat and the Kromme Waal, two streets in the top ten of Amsterdam streets with the highest concentrations of the exhaust gas NO2. The measuring sessions are planned for April and May.

The trick is to extract information from that broad package of measurements.
Matthijs Danes

The measuring will be done using a sensor developed in Wageningen. The data are sent in using an app. Of course, Danes adds, in accuracy the measurements collected in this way cannot compete with those from official stations. But they don’t need to. ‘Lay people explore the limits and take measurements in places where no one usually measures. By doing so they provide a spatial diversity you couldn’t achieve using traditional measurements. The trick is to extract information from that broad package of measurements.’

Danes’ project is one of eight initiatives to get off the ground with funding from AMS. Wageningen UR is involved in four of these projects. Smart Wasting is tackling Amsterdam’s garbage problem. Climadaptool is developing an app for describing the city’s climate issues, and Industrial Symbiosis will map the flow of mineral building materials in the city. AMS is contributing 25,000 euros to each of the projects, covering half the total project costs.

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  • Fokke de Jong, CALM team Alterra

    In Amersfoort is begin 2015 Meet je stad! gestart. Een project waarin inwoners van Amersfoort drie jaar lang metingen doen in hun eigen leefomgeving, en de gevolgen en beleving van klimaatverandering in de stad Amersfoort onderzoeken. Zie voor de ontwikkelingen