Expert says smog set to remain as Czech problem

Prague, January 20 2017, photo: CTK

The Czech Republic has been experiencing the worst case of smog pollution in recent years. The maximum for airborne dust particles has been exceeded in most parts of the country for nearly a week. People with respiratory diseases and heart conditions as well as elderly people and children were advised to limit outdoor activities and regulations curbing the activities of the biggest polluters has been in declared in several regions, including Prague.

Prague,  January 20 2017,  photo: CTK
I spoke to Ondřej Vlček of the Czech Hydro-Meteorological Institute and I first asked him how serious the situation was at the moment:

“Concerning concentration of particulate matter in the atmosphere, which was the reason for the announcement of the smog situation in the last few days, the situation has been slowly improving.

“We have notice improvement since Sunday noon, when the ground temperature inversion was disturbed and started to move upwards, so the emissions from the sources could disperse in the atmosphere.”

How serious is the situation when you compare it to the previous years?

“It is impossible to make direct comparison because of changing rules of smog warning and regulation system. Nevertheless if we look at the concentrations on the situation we can say that the situation is really unusual within the perspective of the last few years.”

So what are the main factors behind the current air pollution?

“The main factor is of course meteorological situation. Since January 19 there was a very strong temperature inversion reaching ground levels, so the air pollution from the sources such as traffic, local heating and low level industrial sources could not disperse in the atmosphere.”

Authorities in Prague have repeatedly called on drivers not to use their cars. To what extent do people contribute to the smog by using their cars?

“It depends on what region we are talking about. If we are talking about Prague, then we can really say that drivers are among the main contributors to smog situation. Of course if we want to reduce the emissions, there would have to be drastic limitations on their usage, but I don’t think politicians would be willing to take such step.”

Hradec Králové,  January 23 2017,  photo: CTK
What immediate measures can be taken to improve the situation?

“I think we cannot take any measures to improve the situation. We can try to take measures which would help not to make the situation even worse, which means trying to limit emissions from the traffic or local heating. I am not saying people should stop using their solid fuel stoves but they should really try to follow correct operation instructions and try to limit emissions.”

Is the situation likely to improve in the coming days?

“We can expect that in the next few days the concentration will probably be slowly decreasing and we could see some improvement on Thursday, when the numerical weather prediction model gives us better values of the ventilation index, but it really depends on the development of the weather.”