This weekend’s weather forecast: Sunshine, warmth and ‘very high’ pollution

Lauren Lee

Lauren Lee
Senior Consultant, Assurity Consulting
8th April 2020

With the UK in its third week of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we seem to have been blessed with the first signs of summer. Temperatures are forecast to reach 23°C in London this weekend, which unfortunately will of course encourage people to leave their homes for their daily exercise. However, according to the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), much of southern England and Wales could expect to be hit with ‘high’ or ‘very high’ levels of air pollution later this week.

It is thought that the main sources of this pollution will be agricultural ammonia, building emissions, fires and industry pollution which has travelled over from Europe. The very light winds that are forecast for this week will result in poor dispersal and a build-up of pollution levels, particularly in southern England and Wales.

You may have seen the widely circulated satellite images recently released by NASA which shows the reduction of nitrogen oxide levels across the globe, and National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) statistics show a general decline in particulate matter (PM2.5) too. However, with people spending more time in their gardens, there has also been a rise of bonfires lately across the country.

Councils across the country have advised residents to be considerate when lighting bonfires, requesting they limit them to evenings when vulnerable residents are more likely indoors, and some councils have advised against them altogether. The smoke can exacerbate respiratory issues and make them worse. Bromley, London has already seen an increase in PM2.5 particulate matter which counsellors believe to have resulted from residents burning garden waste and lighting bonfires.

DEFRA has recommended that adults and children with underlying lung and heart problems, including asthma, should refrain from strenuous exercise this week. Those with asthma may need to use their inhaler more often, and the pollution levels could leave vulnerable people more exposed to the worst COVID-19 symptoms.

Hopefully these increased pollution levels are an anomaly during these unprecedented times. It will certainly be interesting to see how the lockdown continues to affect global air pollution levels in the coming weeks. What’s that saying…every cloud?