The 24th International Conference on Modelling, Monitoring and Management of Air Pollution has taken place in Crete, co-organised by the University of the West of England (UWE) represented by Jim Longhurst and the Wessex Institute of Technology (WIT) represented by Professor Carlos A. Brebbia. The Conference Series started in Mexico as early as 1993 and since then has been held every year in different locations throughout the world. The continuous success of the Conference is mainly due to its ability to evolve and attract new academics and air pollution participants from all over the world. The Series continues to meet the demands of its participants through the quality of the papers presented at the meeting. It discusses air pollution issues at international, regional and local levels. This led to the wide dissemination of the work presented at all Air Pollution conferences among the international community. WIT’s policy regarding making all papers open access has helped to accelerate this process. Papers presented at all WIT Conferences or published in any of its Journals can be downloaded for free from the Institute’s eLibrary (witpress.com/elibrary). The Conference dealt with important scientific aspects of air pollution as well as with the regulatory requirements to achieve appropriate air pollution mitigation and management. Of particular importance in the last few years have been the studies related to the Health Effects of Air Contamination, a topic that this conference covered.
Opening of the Conference
The Meeting was opened by Professor Carlos A. Brebbia who explained that Wessex Institute is a unique type of organisation dedicated to the transfer of knowledge across different disciplines. Because of that, WIT sees itself as collaborating rather than competing with other academics and research institutions. WIT, Carlos said, has many agreements with universities all over the world, including the University of the West of England (UWE), one of the most dynamic institutions in the country. That agreement has led to a series of joint activities, including not only the co-organisation of conferences but also academic visits and publications. Professor Jim Longhurst in particular has served as Co-Chair of this Air Pollution Conference for nearly a quarter of a century. Research and Development focused on industry is another activity of WIT which requires continuous improvement of the computer tools for which the Institute is renowned throughout the world. In particular, the original concept of boundary elements – developed when Carlos was heading a research group at Southampton University – has set the basis for a computer package widely used by industry. The Boundary Element Method is a unique engineering tool with a wide range of applications, ranging from bioengineering to aerospace, the oil industry and many others. The close relationship with industry is one of the main achievements of the work developed at WIT. Carlos also commented on the dissemination work carried out by WIT Press which has made available in Open Access form all papers published since 1993. WIT Press is also committed to communication between different disciplines, something that is reflected not only on the variety of conferences which the Institute organises, but also in the objectives of its journals. The Institute feels that there is a need to promote new interdisciplinary journals, different and independent of those published by major commercial companies. This stress on new areas of research, Carlos said, is characteristic of the work carried out by WIT. Carlos ended his opening remarks by thanking the participants for their contributions to the state of the art in Air Pollution Research and Development, wishing them a very successful conference and hoping that they will consider visiting the WIT Campus in the New Forest to achieve a better understanding of its aims.
The Keynote address was given by Professor Jim Longhurst who referred to the importance of this Conference, demonstrated by its constant evolution over nearly a quarter of a century. Jim mentioned that the expectations of how to manage air pollution years ago have not been fulfilled. This is particularly the case when looking at the developments since the 1956 Clean Air Act in the UK. This act was the result of the famous 1952 London smog. The type of pollution then produced was visible and had profound effects on health. The smog then was mainly produced by coal burning. The Clean Air Act was ahead of its time and dramatically reduced the emissions of “dark” smog. This however only reduced visible pollution but it failed to take into account other toxic gases and particles. In the 1990s the UK launched another set of actions represented by the Environmental Act of 1995 followed by the Air Quality Strategy 1997 plan. The problem is complicated by different bodies taking part in implementing the initiative. Following directives from the EU a new Air Quality Strategy was published in 2007 while the update of Air Quality regulations took place in 2010, where a better understanding of the problem is reflected. The European Environment Agency in 2015 pointed out that a large proportion of European states are subject to poor air quality which is dangerous to human health. In the UK, the government thinks that it will not be possible to fulfil the European targets until 2025. Air Pollution, Jim stressed, is still a grave problem in the UK, and due to many sources, particularly traffic contamination. The Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution pointed out the large number of deaths due to NO2 and PM2.5 particles. Their concern was also expressed in a recent medical report which estimates as 40,000 deaths per year the toll taken by NO2 and particles. The gravity of the problem is confirmed by WHO reports which suggests that Air Pollution produces more health problems in the world than many diseases which receive more research support. Air Pollution produces cardiovascular diseases and is a major carcinogenic. Current plans, in Jim’s opinion, do not go far enough to solve the problem in the UK.
A substantial number of papers were presented at the Conference, as well as a few invited presentations by well known colleagues, the invited talks were as follows:
- “Progress with air quality management in the 60 years since the UK Clean Air Act of 1956. Lessons, failures, challenges and opportunities.” by Jim Longhurst, University of the West of England.
- “Relationship between quality of ambient air and respiratory disease in the Polish population” by Malgorzata Kowalska, Medical University of Silesia, Poland.
- “Prediction of hourly ozone concentrations with multiple regression and
- multilayer perception models” by Carmen Capilla, Polytechnic University of Seville, Spain.
The rest of the papers were divided into a series of topics as follows:
- Health effects
- Emission studies
- Aerosols and particles
- Air pollution modelling
- Air pollution modernisation and management
- Monitoring and measuring
The emphasis of the Conference, as with all those in the WIT programme, was to allow as much time for discussions as possible. This took place during the formal sessions as well as during the extended coffee breaks and lunches. There was also a joint session with the 22nd International Conference on Urban Transport and the Environment which took place during the same week and at the same venue. This was motivated by the idea of helping to understand better the relationship between air pollution and urban traffic, which pollutes the atmosphere in terms of volatile components and particles. The idea was most successful and it may be followed in the future in those cases when the two meetings coincide.
The lunches also helped to cement the links developing among the participants. They consisted of a buffet menu and were taken around the main pool. The ISAC (International Scientific Advisory Committee) met over dinner to discuss the next meeting. The dinner took place in an outstanding restaurant at the sea front and consisted of a large grouper fish. The Committee discussed new topics to be included in the Call for Papers and changes to the objectives of the meeting. This is important as the continuous success of the Conference over nearly a quarter of a century is mainly due to its capacity for renewal and evolution. In addition, some new members were nominated for the Committee. The case of where to hold the next conference was discussed in some detail and WIT’s Conference Division was requested to investigate suitable venues. The Conference dinner consisted of a series of typical Cretan dishes, including lamb prepared with rice and other roasted meats. The wines and other dishes were also for the island and of excellent quality. The evening ended with a variety of Cretan sweets and the Island’s formidable raki. The right programme included music and singing during the dinner and the presence of a local group which performed different types of Cretan dancing. At the end, the bravest delegates joined the dancers in a friendly atmosphere.
Close of the Conference
The Conference was closed by Professor Carlos Brebbia and Jim Longhurst. Carlos thanked the delegates for their support of WIT activities and hoped that they will consider collaborating with the Institute’s activities in the future. He stressed WIT’s commitment to disseminate the work at the Conference as widely as possible and in this regard the recent Open Access initiative is a major step forward. Jim closed the Conference by commenting on the friendly atmosphere during the Meeting and invited the delegates to keep in touch with each other and come back next year to participate in the next Conference in the series to take place in Cádiz, Spain, from 25 to 27 April 2017.