New measurement campaign maps greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution in Rotterdam

This very moment, a campaign to measure air pollution and urban emissions of greenhouse gases is taking place in the Rotterdam area. Scientists from Utrecht University and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM in Dutch), amongst others, are investigating how atmospheric measurements can best be used to monitor the reduction of urban greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. This reduction is planned in the coming years in the context of the energy transition. The Rotterdam area is an interesting case study, because it contains a wide variety of sources of pollution and greenhouse gases.

The campaign started on 22 August and will end on 9 September. It is being led by the Ruisdael Observatory, a nationwide observatory for measuring and modelling the atmosphere. Urban emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollution are currently estimated based on calculations and emission numbers reported by companies, rather than from actual measurements. Air quality is monitored by the Landelijk Meetnet Luchtkwaliteit (National Air Quality Monitoring Network). But this network is not designed for determining emissions.

Additional atmospheric measurements are therefore needed to determine urban emissions. Independent atmospheric measurements of urban emissions are required to verify calculations and to validate that the goals to reduce emission are achieved in reality, and not just on paper. The current period is an interesting time of year to perform the campaign, as many activities are starting up again after the relatively quiet holiday period. The scientists hope to detect this change of activity in their data.

A new spatial image

The centre of Rotterdam and the Port of Rotterdam are major sources of greenhouse gases and air pollution. During the current campaign, extra measuring instrument will be deployed at the existing measuring stations in the area. Measuring cars, bicycles, a measuring trailer and two measuring planes will also be used to map these sources. There are even satellite instruments watching from space, such as the Dutch TROPOMI instrument that focuses on air pollution and the NASA OCO-3 instrument that measures carbon dioxide.

Role of the RIVM

Guus Velders, senior scientific researcher on air quality and climate change: "The RIVM greatly values independent measurements of emission calculations. The Ruisdael campaign and this unique collaboration with other research institutions offers a great opportunity to make our emission calculations even more accurate. In addition, we are contributing to the campaign ourselves by deploying hundreds of particulate sensors (together with the Luchtclub Rotterdam) and we are measuring ultrafine particles together with Utrecht University using a special measuring car."

Ruisdael Observatory

The Ruisdael Observatory is a scientific consortium set up to enable more accurate and detailed forecasts of weather and air quality. It is a partnership between researchers from KNMI, RIVM, Utrecht University, University of Groningen, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Wageningen University & Research and TNO and is coordinated by TU Delft. The Ruisdael Observatory is funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO).

Other European cities

The campaign in Rotterdam does not stand on its own, but is part of the larger European projects RI-Urbans and ICOS Cities. Studies will also be conducted in other European cities including Paris, Bucharest and Milan this summer and autumn.