Towards an Integrated Observing System for South America: Air Quality Assessment and Forecasting in Megacities


Workshop and White Paper

Santiago de Chile, January 9-12 2012



Urbanization and population concentration are outstanding phenomena in South America. About 83% of the 530 million South Americans live already in large coastal or near coastal cities (> 750 k inhabitants), many of which are heavily polluted. Hereto, environmental authorities in these cities have invested substantial resources in air quality monitoring networks. Collected data are increasingly available for public and scientific scrutiny over the Internet. However, calibration and quality control procedures vary greatly among different cities and along time in a given city limiting at times the usefulness of the data both for policy and scientific purposes. Moreover, costly instruments and analytical facilities are too often underexploited due to lack of coordination, including appropriate calibration, and local know-how. 

The Global Atmospheric Watch (GAW) program of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in collaboration with local institutions has driven over the last two decades a number of background stations addressing changes in atmospheric composition and climate. Only a fraction of these data are analyzed. Nowadays there is an overwhelming amount of satellite data that can yield quantitative results regarding air quality and climate change. To fully realize these data local expertise and observations are crucially needed but local communities are generally disconnected from global ones. 

We have organized a workshop in January 9-12 2012, involving leading scientists and local policy makers to evaluate the present situation and act towards the design of an integrated observing system to assess and forecast air quality in and around growing South American urban centers. This activity marks the closure of a five year project sponsored by the Inter American Institute on Global Change Research that tackled South American Emissions Megacities and Climate (SAEMC, CRN 2017). It is also a regional activity promoted and sponsored by the international Commission on Atmospheric Chemistry and Global Pollution (iCACGP), and by the World Meteorological Organization, Global Atmospheric Watch (GAW) Urban Research Meteorology and Environment (GURME).

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Air Quality M.S.