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EarthSense Data Helps Southampton City Council Reduce Woodburning Smoke through Behavioural Change

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

EarthSense, the air quality expert, is working with Southampton City Council, which is using air quality data services to visualise and mitigate woodburning smoke emissions. The project is part of a campaign to encourage behavioural change and reduce residents’ exposure to harmful pollutants.


domestic wood burner

Southampton City Council is using EarthSense’s air quality service as part of a woodburning campaign with the Environment Centre (tEC). The campaign aims to educate members of the public about the harms of burning wood to encourage them to burn better and cleaner, and to move to more sustainable methods of heating homes where possible.


The Council developed the campaign following an increase in awareness of the public health implications of exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5), and after receiving an Air Quality Grant from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)


Southampton City Council is installing 18 EarthSense Zephyr® monitors around residential areas, and neighbouring local authority areas, to gather localised, real-time measurements of PM2.5.. EarthSense’s MappAir® technology, a near real-time, high-resolution air quality model, will provide visualisations of woodburning emissions, using advanced modelling techniques to provide a picture of PM2.5 dispersion.


The MappAir® technology includes various integrated datasets, such as Zephyr® measurements and data from Automatic Urban and Rural Networks (AURN) owned by DEFRA and will also pinpoint the various sources of particulate pollution through source apportionment of woodburning, transport and background emissions.


Developed by EarthSense, the public facing air quality portal will be used by Southampton City Council and members of the public to view how PM2.5 emissions are dispersing across the city in near real time. The public portal will help to inform where the behaviour change campaign and advice about how individuals can manage their exposure to particulates, should be targeted, particularly on colder days when use of woodburning stoves may increase. Users can use the portal to download air quality data, set alerts, and view up to 72-hour air pollution forecasts, so they can plan ahead when concentrations are likely to be high, and therefore reduce their exposure.


The Environment Centre is a local charity which delivers the wood burning campaign across Southampton, The New Forest, Eastleigh, and Winchester. The campaign will use the data provided by EarthSense to show members of the public where air pollution levels are high due to woodburning. It will use this information and website, events, and leaflets to educate members of the public about the harms of PM2.5 emissions and encourage them to change their everyday decisions to reduce domestic burning.


George O’Ferrall, Air Quality Projects Lead at Southampton City Council said: “To date, air quality monitoring broadly focusses on monitoring NO2 at roadside locations. We recognised that the wood burning engagement project would really benefit from an enhanced network of monitors which captures PM fractions in more residential areas.


O’Ferrall continued: “The EarthSense Zephyr® monitors have been able to plug this gap in our monitoring and give us the opportunity to use local data when engaging with residents to highlight how woodburning is affecting their health and the health of their community, encouraging them to take steps to burn less and burn better. The MappAir® model has helped take this further with residents being able to get an indication of what air quality is like in any area of the city. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with EarthSense to get the most out of the data in this project and in future schemes.”


EarthSense’s air quality service uses Zephyr® monitors for real time insights into air pollution, bespoke MappAir® models, annual averages, and data access web application, MyAir® ­­to enable organisations such as local authorities, transport, and construction companies to pull actionable insights from air quality data. This may be identifying areas where woodburning emissions are highest, peak times and locations for congestion across a city, or locating the most polluted schools across an area of interest.


Tom Hall, CEO at EarthSense said: “The evidence is clear that woodburning smoke emissions are harming human health. Fine particulate matter from domestic burning is a transboundary issue, meaning once we light a fire to heat our homes it goes further than our own exposure. It affects people living nearby and those living with health challenges, such as asthma and COPD, as it travels through the air and infiltrates their environment too.”


Hall continued: “By working with Southampton City Council and The Environment Centre to provide members of the public with air quality data, we can bring a joined-up approach to educate members of the public about why moving away from woodburning stoves is crucial for cleaner air quality and provide pathways for actions we can take to for healthier living. Giving information about the what and the why will be crucial for driving behavioural change.”

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