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Huge ash clouds, a constant column of smoke over Cumbre Vieja and permanent uncertainty as to how the volcano will behave next: this has long become normality for the inhabitants of La Palma. But what is the actual state of air quality? How vulnerable are people to the toxic – but invisible – substances in the air?

In order to gain precise insights, Palas GmbH from Karlsruhe is now supporting the Spanish authorities on the Canary Island of La Palma in monitoring air quality at various measuring points. For this purpose, these experts in aerosol technology provided nine of its most up-to-date devices on La Palma at short notice and without complications.

On 15th November, four Palas employees, including CEO Dr Maximilian Weiß, set off for La Palma. On arriving on La Palma, the island first makes a very peaceful impression. In two days, Palas employees travelled to nine stations, climbed onto house roofs and garages, installed a device in a school and one in a mobile measuring bus very close to the volcano.

“The installation went smoothly – plug & measure, so to speak: connect, switch on and with just a few clicks the devices were visible in the network of the My Atmosphere data platform,” explains Ann-Kathrin Goßmann. “The biggest problem on-site was getting onto the roofs where the equipment was to be placed and a brief shortage of extension leads.”

Connect, switch on, ready

The Palas team needed less than 48 hours to connect the nine devices, although they had to drive around the entire island to set up an air quality measuring network. On average, installation at the respective installation site, including commissioning in the cloud, took less than 2 hours, a connection to MyAtmosphere Cloud tool only a few minutes. The measurement data is transferred to the MyAtmosphere data platform, where a comprehensive situation picture is then displayed. The authorities on the ground are thus in a better position to assess the situation and react accordingly. There are many factors that influence air quality, such as wind direction. Therefore, the new monitoring network needs to cover the entire island and not just the immediate vicinity of Cumbre Vieja.

What do the authorities now hope to gain from the measurement data?

Maximilian Weiß says, “It’s not about evacuating all the residents. The point is that we, or the local authorities, can use the measurements to better assess those places the air pollution is so high that it is no longer permissible to be there. The island is very complex in terms of the topography: there are certainly places where the air quality is very good, but in the western part of the island there is also the extreme pollution from the volcano and there is a real risk that the exclusion zone will have to be extended.”

Departure and further steps

Palas now monitors the entire situation from Karlsruhe and is still in contact with the authorities to advise them further on the measurement data.

But how is the air quality on the island? Dr. White reports, “In fact, the readings are not as bad as they were at the beginning of the outbreak. However, there are always peaks where exposure exceeds the recommended limit. In such cases, it is necessary to react swiftly, as the authorities are already doing with temporary curfews. It’s a matter of continuing to monitor that and hoping the volcano stops its activity soon.”

This is MyAtmosphere

MyAtmosphere was developed by Palas and is – in short – the most advanced environmental measurement system for smart cities and large areas. The data platform allows the Palas measuring devices to be connected to form a measuring network and the collected data is available at a glance. Regardless of the area in which the air quality is to be measured and monitored, via the data platform users see current and precise measurement results that are processed and visualised in real time. This allows the necessary measures to be derived simply, quickly and effortlessly. And that is exactly what the authorities on La Palma need.

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