Warmest January on record increases air pollution in Alicante province

by Lorraine Williamson
air pollution

The warmest January on record has worsened air pollution in the province of Alicante. Due to the little rain, polluting particles remain in the air. This can have consequences for public health. Are measures necessary or will the temperature drop again? 

The measured values do not yet pose a risk. But, if pollution continues to increase, measures may be taken. For example, by limiting exposure to pollution. Especially for people with respiratory problems, it is important to spend less time on the street. Research also shows that pollution can lead to damage to the heart and blood vessels. Or to depression or diabetes. 

The month of January 

January was hot throughout Spain. The Ministry of the Environment in the province of Alicante has measured several high peaks. With values of up to 85 ppb (particles per billion) on weekends. In the city of Alicante, the values reached 67.6 in Rabassa, and in El Pla 74.5. In other cities, the measured values are as follows: Elche, 66; Benidorm, 80; Elda, 64.6; Villena, 62.3; Alcoy, 55.1. 

Air quality in the different cities 

On Monday, the values fell again. The municipality of Elda had the worst air quality index of 49. Then came Alicante with 41; Torrevieja, 39; Orihuela, 38; Benidorm, 36; Pinoso, 30 and Alcoy, 27. To calculate this index, the average of all pollutants is taken. 

Three warm peaks in January 

The Spanish Meteorological Agency (AEMET) highlighted that there have been three very remarkable warm peaks in January. This warm January in the Valencia region is likely to end with temperatures 2.8°C higher than normal. And the nice weather seems to continue for a while, although the temperatures have already dropped. This week it doesn’t seem to be raining and the drought continues. Maximum temperatures are forecast to drop by 2-3ºC. The minimum temperature is also somewhat lower, between 6°C and 8°C on the coast and 1 and 3°C inland. 

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Heat and pollution 

Doctor of chemical sciences Adoración Carratalá, pointed out that in these situations of anticyclone “the heat does not affect the pollution.” In stable weather, without wind, an anticyclone is ‘like a lid on a jar’. There are a lot of pollutants in the air,” he said. But there can also be pollution on cold days, when the temperature rises with altitude, instead of the other way around. 

As a result of the anticyclone, nitrogen oxides due to exhaust gases increase. This happens mainly during sunrise. The mixing layer has the minimum thickness, and as the day gets warmer, the thickness of the atmosphere increases, and there is a dilution of the pollutants. 

Pollution by ozone and Saharan air 

Ozone posed little risk last week. Most problems occur when there are more hours of sunshine. The air flow from the Sahara can also lead to pollution. At the moment, it only reaches the Canary Islands. Because there is little wind, it does not seem likely that this air will make it to the province of Alicante. 

Long-term damage to health 

Meteorologist Lluis Francés stated that “there are many small particles concentrated in the air. In the long term, they can cause harm to humans.” Pollution can lead to shortness of breath, cough, and respiratory diseases. But also to headaches, irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. In addition, polluted air can increase the risk of heart disease and can kill you sooner. According to Frances, the polluted air will soon disappear due to the easterly wind. 

 Also read: December temperatures were also drier and warmer than normal

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