Experiences of the NERC Atmospheric Pollution and Human Health Project.

Email: k.m.milczewska@pgr.reading.ac.uk

One of the most exciting opportunities of my PhD experience to date has been a research trip to Beijing in June, as part of the NERC Atmospheric Pollution and Human Health (APHH) project. This is a worldwide research collaboration with a focus on the way air pollution in developing megacities affects human health, and the meeting in Beijing served as the 3rd project update.

Industrialisation of these cities in the last couple of decades has caused air pollution to rise rapidly and regularly exceed levels deemed safe by the World Health Organisation (WHO).  China sees over 1,000,000 deaths annually due to particulate matter (PM), with 76 deaths per 100,000 capita. In comparison, the UK has just over 16,000 total deaths and 26 per capita. But not only do these two countries have very different climates and emissions; they are also at very different stages of industrial development. So in order to better understand the many various sources of pollution in developing megacities – be they from local transport, coal burning or advected from further afield – there is an increased need for developing robust air quality (AQ) monitoring measures.

The APHH programme exists as a means to try and overcome these challenges. My part in the meeting was to expand the cohort of NCAS / NERC students researching AQ in both the UK and China, attending a series of presentations in a conference-style environment and visiting two sites with AQ monitoring instruments. One is situated in the Beijing city centre while the other in the rural village of Pinggu, just NW of Beijing. Over 100 local villagers take part in a health study by carrying a personal monitor with them over a period of two weeks. Their general health is monitored at the Pinggu site, alongside analysis of the data collected about their personal exposure to pollutants each day, i.e. heatmaps of different pollutant species are created according to GPS tracking. Having all the instruments being explained to us by local researchers was incredibly useful, because since I work with models, I haven’t had a great deal of first hand exposure to pollutant data collection. It was beneficial to get an appreciation of the kind of work this involves!

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In between all our academic activities we also had the chance to take some cultural breaks – Beijing has a lot to offer! For example, our afternoon visit to the Pinggu rural site followed the morning climb up the Chinese Great Wall. Although the landscape was somewhat obscured by the pollution haze, this proved to be a positive thing as we didn’t have to suffer in the direct beam of the sun!


I would like to greatly thank NERC, NCAS and University of Leeds for the funding and organisation of this trip. It has been an incredible experience, and I am looking forward to observing the progess of these projects, hopefully using what I have learnt in some of my own work.

For more information, please visit the APHH student blog in which all the participants documented their experiences: https://www.ncas.ac.uk/en/introduction-to-atmospheric-science-home/18-news/2742-ncas-phd-students-visit-four-year-air-quality-fieldwork-project-in-beijing

Meteorology Ball 2017

Email: K.M.Milczewska@pgr.reading.ac.uk

On Friday 17th February, the annual Meteorology Ball provided a great excuse for members of the department and their guests to dress up for the evening. But for all the excitement of this year’s masquerade theme, the Ball is mainly a charity event. Through the sale of raffle tickets and an auction of promises, the event aims to raise money for the David Grimes Trust, administered by the Reading San Francisco Libre Association (RSFLA), in honour of the well-remembered academic from our department who devoted a great deal of his time to the charity.

RSFLA supports environmental and educational projects in the rural Nicaraguan town of San Francisco Libre, which was ‘twinned’ with Reading in 1994 in order to encourage the exchange of culture and knowledge. Over the past few years, the Meteorology department has supported this link through regular cake sales, running the Reading Half Marathon and, of course, the annual ball.

David Grimes was a respected, integral member of the department and there are many among us who reminisce about his goodwill, interactive lectures and Panto appearances. There are also those among us who, despite never having had the chance to meet David, can easily imagine the positive impact he had both in and outside of our department, through our continued support of the charity under his name. The money  raised is mainly spent on educational support in the San Francisco Libre district: helping to fund a scholarship programme, build a library and toilet facilities among various other projects – and the people who benefit directly have a special message for us all!
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The generosity of over 80 people attending made the event a great success, raising over £1500 through bidding on bizzarre auction items and lessons, as well as purchasing raffle tickets. To add to this, Santander will be chipping in with an extra £1500 to match, bringing the total raised to over £3000 for the charity! Such success would never have happened, had it not been for all the help we received from Santander, local businesses offering prizes for the raffle, and most importantly: all of those who bought a ticket to come! On behalf of all the organisers, I would like to finish this post with a massive bout of thanks for making the evening worth all the effort and continuing the important tradition of fundraising for the David Grimes Trust.

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Met Festivities.

The Christmas period is a busy time for many and PhD students are no exception. Below are quick highlights from the department written by three of our PhD students. Read below to learn more about our recent Royal Meteorological Society South-East local centre meeting, the adventures of the Met Choir, and the much-anticipated departmental pantomime.

“Will we have a white Christmas in Reading this year? What does the term “white Christmas” even mean? Both of these questions were addressed at the beginning of the Royal Meteorological Society’s local south-east centre meeting on the 7th of December by the department of meteorology’s recently retired Ross Reynolds.

The evening began with inevitable mince pies and a poster showcase by eight PhD students from a variety of research areas, which initiated lively discussions. The Met choir singers added to the festive spirit with a repertoire of carols before the oral presentations began.

First up was Jake Gristey, whose research project investigates satellite constellations to measure energy flux in and out of the Earth’s atmosphere. Updating the satellite constellation will allow satellites to measure outgoing energy flux to a higher accuracy than any instrument has done previously, allowing for an accurate calculation of Earth’s radiation budget. Eunice Lo spoke about a geoengineering method, Sulphate Aerosol Injection (SAI) which involves releasing sulphate particles into the atmosphere with the aim of increasing the Earth’s albedo. The idea is based on historical volcanic aerosol release which led to a decrease in global temperatures. Eunice is basing her studies of the effects of SAI on a future world following a particular economic scenario. Our last speaker of the evening was James Shaw, who researches the modelling of atmospheric transport over terrain. He is currently developing a new mesh for numerical transport schemes over mountains, with a focus on the accurate representation of near-surface cells.

The meeting exhibited the huge variety of research happening in the department and was an overall success. This was the last local-cente meeting of the year, with the next one taking place on 11th January 2017.”

Kaja Milczewska, K.M.Milczewska@pgr.reading.ac.uk

“An important part of the festive season for PhD students is the infamous Met Pantomime. Twice a week we all get together over our lunchtimes to practice and perfect all the jokes accrued by the members of the department this year. Although planning begins in September, it’s only come December when it all comes together. That crazy wig arrives from Amazon and we’ve created oversized comic props from all the cardboard Hobbycraft can spare. The jokes and jibes get funnier every time we practice them and staff just keep providing more and more material (oh no they don’t!). There’s definitely an undercurrent of excitement – and a little apprehension – as the big evening draws near. This years’ comic spectacle: Snow White and the Research Dwarves, complete with lights, sound, and a fantastic buffet.”

Sarah Bentley, S.Bentley@pgr.reading.ac.uk

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“This year the meteorology choir have been busy rehearsing for performances both within the department and externally. A recently formed tradition and definite highlight has been singing for the residents of the Lakeside care home as well as for the annual department Christmas celebration. We also have been lucky enough this year to perform at a local and national meeting of the Royal Meteorological Society. The choir is open to all, regardless of musical ability and we have members ranging from students all the way up to head of department.”

Samantha Buzzard, s.c.buzzard@pgr.reading.ac.uk

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Social Metwork.