UCL News


3D map of pollution in London

3 July 2006

An interactive three-dimensional map that allows users to "fly" above London to see pollution hotspots has been launched by UCL's Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (UCL CASA) and King's College.

The easy-to-use tool allows transport and urban planners, as well as the general public, to zoom in on different areas to see how clean particular neighbourhoods are. It is the first time air pollution for an entire city has been related to the built environment.

The map also provides projections of air quality up to 2010, taking into account measures adopted at local and national government levels to improve the air Londoners breathe, such as the uptake in catalytic converters and constraints on factory emissions.

The London Air Quality Network, which hosts the web-based map, was aware that two-dimensional representations can be difficult for non-specialists to grasp, and so seized upon UCL CASA's suggestion to use their expertise in 3D mapping to create a simple but effective tool. 

The aim appears to have been met. At the launch, a private sector air quality specialist described the map as "the best air quality website in the world". Many local authorities - which are required to review and assess air quality in their areas - have already expressed interest in having their own personalised interface with an even greater level of detail that could show the pollution around bus stations, for example.

Users can already choose to focus on roads and railways, the River Thames, green spaces and the congestion charge zone. Air quality can be viewed by overall level of pollution, or by key pollutants such as the particulate matter PM10 or oxides of nitrogen.

"If you compare the PM10 exceedences for 2003 and 2010 the improvements are incredible," said Steve Evans of UCL CASA. "There's quite a drastic difference between levels of pollution in somewhere like Trafalgar Square, and those just one street back from the main road. The map shows if you choose your route to work with care you can change the amount of pollution you're breathing by a significant order of magnitude."


3D air pollution map