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The challenge

Urban and regional air pollution is a significant environmental threat

Urban and regional air pollution is a significant environmental threat. Industry, power generation and motor vehicles release pollutants that can lead to photochemical smog, haze and acidification. Pollution threatens environmental sustainability and can have harmful effects on human health.

Steam rises from an industrial chimney

Our response

We work with the Australian community to solve air pollution problems

Our scientists work with industry, regulatory bodies and the community to deliver commercially-viable and cost-effective air pollution solutions.

These are based on our understanding of the sources, fate and behaviour of contaminants as they disperse through our atmosphere.

We develop the knowledge and techniques required to monitor, model and analyse environmental processes in the atmosphere and at the land surface.

CSIRO expertise:

Greenhouse and ozone depleting gases:
  • measurement and modelling of atmospheric constituents including a range of greenhouse gases at trace to source levels
  • quantification of sources and sinks
  • firn and ice cores air sample extraction and interpretation
  • derivation of greenhouse gas trends
  • maintenance of Cape Grim air archive.
Reactive gases and aerosols:
  • atmospheric chemistry of reactive gases such as ozone and volatile organic compounds
  • measurement and modelling of aerosol chemistry, aerosol-cloud interaction and microphysics for long term trends analyses, process studies, and application in air quality, climate and cloud physics.
Continental scale biogeochemical cycles:
  • measuring and modelling the interactions between the land surface and the climate system, especially the biogeochemical cycles of carbon and water
  • curation and application of large datasets on meteorology, soils, and vegetation properties.
  • measuring and understanding of the drivers of transport of heat, water and carbon from the land surface to the atmosphere. This includes ecophysiology, remote sensing, data assimilation; as well as field and laboratory-based observations.
Air quality:
  • development and application of air quality modelling tools for industrial, rural, and urban air sheds, including TAPM (The Air Pollution Model) and CTM (Chemical Transport Model)
  • measurements and modelling of air pollutants, their precursors, chemical transformation, transport and mixing in urban and rural environments, and projecting likely impacts of air pollutants under current and future climates
  • provide research to support setting environmental standards, monitoring, and regulation of air quality.
Satellite remote sensing and data assimilation:
  • processing and analysing satellite data for the measurement of the land surface properties such as soil moisture and vegetation as well as the state of the atmosphere. These data are assimilated into weather and climate forecast models such as ACCESS (Australia's 'next generation' climate model, the Australian Community Climate and Earth System Simulator).

CSIRO Facilities:

  • Wind tunnel
  • Air archive
  • Field observatories at Cape Grim, Tumbarumba, Gunn Point, Aspendale and the Otways
  • Leadership in the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network
  • National Association of Testing Authorities certified laboratories for Aerosol and Rainwater Chemistry and Aerosol Mass
  • GasLab, IceLab and VOC Lab for measurement of Greenhouse gases, Ozone-depleting gases and Reactive Gases
  • Data archiving and curation, storage, processing and visualisation
  • OzFlux is a national ecosystem research network set up to provide the Australian and global ecosystem modelling communities with nationally consistent observations of energy, carbon and water exchange between the atmosphere and key Australian ecosystems. OzFlux is part of an international network (FluxNet) of over 500 flux stations that is designed to provide continuous, long-term micrometeorological measurements to monitor the state of ecosystems globally.
  • The Air Pollution Model (TAPM) is a user-friendly model for the prediction of air quality, with a strong scientific basis with verified performance. It is used under licence by more than 240 national and international users in 28 countries.
  • Chemical Transport Model (CTM) is a comprehensive chemical and aerosol model that can be driven by a range of meteorological models such as ACCESS or CCAM (CSIRO’s Conformal Cubic Atmospheric Model).
  • AeroSpan is a network of automated instruments located to characterise the primary sources of Australian continental aerosol – dust and smoke.

In May 2014, CSIRO, in consultation with Australian jurisdictions, organised a Symposium to consider future directions of research for air quality in Australia. The State, Territory and the Commonwealth environment agencies laid out their priorities relating to the management of air quality and science areas requiring research.

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