Through a project launched in August, the Finnish Meteorological Institute is participating in the work of two new measurement stations for air quality established in Santiago de Chile. The short-term goal is to obtain increasingly accurate information about air quality in Santiage de Chile, a city of about six million people.
Photo: Risto Hillamo
This research, focusing on atmospheric fine particles, applies new technology used in Finland, which has been installed at the measurement stations to conduct real-time monitoring of the amounts and chemical composition of particles in the air. The findings will be used for planning measures to improve air quality in Santiago de Chile, as the aim of the measurements is to determine the impacts of various emission sources on fine particle concentrations. Locally, fine particles have adverse effects on health. On the other hand, large cities are globally important sources of fine particles and have an impact on climate change.
Measurements are conducted simultaneously at a measurement station situated on the university campus in Santiago de Chile and in Peñaflor, located about 35 kilometres from Santiago. The Finnish Meteorological Institute’s objective is to determine the sources of Santiago’s occasionally high concentrations of fine particles. Some of the instruments at the stations have been brought from Finland because their innovative technology makes it possible to determine the chemical fingerprints of emission sources. When this information is combined, for instance, with meteorological observations and the daily rhythm of emissions, researchers can estimate the probable pollution source.
The first measurement results reveal that transport is the biggest source of fine particles in Santiago. Cars in Santiago are relatively new, but the number of cars increases by an average of 6.5% per year. In Peñaflor, measurements are performed in a low-rise housing area where concentrations of fine particles have been found to rise very high especially at night because of wood-burning stoves. Later this year, measurements will also be carried out in Concepción, where industry, in particular, is thought to emit pollutants into the environment.
The Chilean Ministry of the Environment has financed the research project, which began in late August and focuses first on Santiago de Chile. The official inauguration of the project took place on 19 August on the campus of the University of Santiago de Chile (USACH), with the participation of, among others, María Ignacia Benítez, the Ministry of the Environment of Chile. The Chilean bodies leading the research and contributing to the measurements are Centro de Mario Molina and the University of Santiago de Chile.