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Monitoring Air Pollution

Air monitoring methodologies can be divided into five main types, covering a wide range of costs and performance levels. The methods and their relative merits are shown in the table below and discussed in the following section. The use of a particular type of monitoring equipment may need to be justified in review and assessment reports and therefore should be chosen appropriately.

It is also important to choose the most appropriate monitoring location for investigating a specific air pollution source or problem.

Monitoring Locations

Monitoring sites can be classified according to the type of environment in which they are located, in order to permit more meaningful evaluation of data. The site description will generally reflect the influence of a particular pollutant source or of overall land use. Typical monitoring location types, as used in national automatic monitoring networks, are described in the table below.

TypeDescriptionSource InfluencesObjectives
RURAL An open countryside location, in an area of low population density distanced as far as possible from roads, populated and industrial areas. Regional long-range transport, urban plume. Ecosystem impact studies.Assessing compliance with critical loads and levels for crops and vegetation.Investigating regional and long-range transport.Identification of ozone ‘hot spots’.
URBAN URBAN Vehicle, commercial, space heating. Identification of long-term urban trends.
KERBSIDE A site sampling within 1m of the kerb of a busy road. Local traffic. Identifying vehicle pollution blackspots.Assessing worst case scenarios.Evaluating impacts of vehicle emission control technologies.Determining impacts of traffic planning/calming schemes.
REMOTE A site in open country, located in an isolated rural area, experiencing regional background pollutant concentrations for much of the time. Regional/hemispheric background. Assessing ‘unpolluted’ global or hemispheric background conditions.Long-range transport studies.Long-term baseline trend analysis.
ROADSIDE A site sampling between 1m of the kerbside of a busy road and the back of the pavement. Typically this will be within 5m of the road, but could be up to 15m. Local traffic. Assessing worst case population exposure.Evaluating impacts of vehicle emission controls.Determining impacts of traffic planning/calming schemes.
SUBURBAN A location type situated in a residential area on the outskirts of a town or city. Traffic, commercial, space heating, regionaltransport, urban plume downwind of a city. Traffic and land-use planning.Investigating urban plumes.
URBAN BACKGROUND An urban location distanced from sources and therefore broadly representative of city-wide background conditions e.g. urban residential areas. Vehicle, commercial, space heating. Trend analysis.Urban planning.Traffic and land-use planning.
URBAN CENTRE An urban location representative of typical population exposure in towns or city centres e.g. pedestrian precincts and shopping areas. Vehicle, commercial, space heating. Identification of long-term urban trends.
URBAN INDUSTRIAL An area where industrial sources make an important contribution to the total pollution burden. Intermediate. 20-30m from the kerb of a busy road. Industrial, motor vehicles. Assessing local impacts on health and amenity.Process optimization.Source attribution/identification.Providing model input data.Model development/validation.Local planning and plant authorization.
INTERMEDIATE 20-30m from the kerb of a busy road Vehicle, commercial, space heating. Identification of long-term urban trends.
AIRPORT Monitoring within the boundary of an airport perimeter. Aircraft, vehicle, commercial, space heating. Determine air quality impact of airport.
OTHER Any special source-orientated or location category covering monitoring undertaken in relation to specific emission sources such as power stations, car parks or tunnels. As specified. As specified.