AQM for Providing Environmental Information Services for Citizens

The increased number of people living in cities, and the fact that the urban environment has been facing the pressures of atmospheric quality degradation for many years, has helped in the development of increased environmental awareness and concern. People are becoming more interested in receiving timely and sometimes advanced information about air pollution and its impact on their lives. It should be mentioned that the first EU legislation concerning air quality information availability was Dir. 82/459, later replaced by Decision 97/101, which stated that environmental information should be made accessible to the public via an information system set up by the European Environment Agency (EEA). The major change came with Directive on Ambient Air Quality Assessment and Management (96/62/EC), which required for the development of action plans concerning zones within which concentrations of pollutants in ambient air exceed limit values. The 96/62 directive, also called 'framework directive for air quality', and the Daughter Directives issued therein after, stress the need of model application as a supplementary assessment method for reporting of monitoring data and for managing and policymaking support.

Information services for the quality of the atmospheric environment should address information needs of citizens on the basis of effective communication modes and methods.

• Information needs. These are defined by the way that the citizen envisages him/herselfin relation to the physical environment, the interactions that he or she has or believes to have with such an environment and the impacts of the quality of the environment to his/her life, family, and personal ethical values that constitute quality of life.

• Communication modes methods used. The effective communication of a message of informative nature that may escalate to a health hazard warning is the key for success. According to AIRNET Thematic Network on Air Pollution and Health (see the section titled 'Relevant websites') ''stakeholders prefer information to be presented in short overviews using non-specialist language''. Additional information may be extracted by projects like airALERT, that provides SMS-based air quality-related health warnings in Sussex, UK: people participating in the project stated that they would like to receive health warning that advice them on the basis of their personal health condition in relation to atmospheric pollution, especially if they belong to the so-called sensitive parts of the population (see the section titled 'Relevant websites').

These issues have been addressed in a comprehensive and systematic way in the frame of the APNEE and APNEE-TU projects (see the section titled 'Relevant websites'), as it is evident by the number of publications that the project produced, the impact it had to the research community (was presented by Commissioner Mrs Reding as one of the three success stories out of the total of ICT projects under the 5th FP). and by the number of offspring that it created. APNEE established a multichannel information service platform for the dissemination and presentation of air quality information. The communication path made use of various telecommunication channels for pull-and-push service provision, indulging Internet for e-mail notification, World Wide Web for detailed pollution-related information, SMS for early warning services, WAP and J2ME applications in mobiles and PDAs for enhanced graphical and informative content on the move, and street panels (VMS) for covering key parts of the urban web and voice services for personal communication support. Moreover, APNEE provided location-based services, and supported personalization of the information.

Focusing on the Web as the information channel, the Air Quality Bulletin ( air/aqb5.pdf), 2005, made a detailed study concerning UK and other websites for air quality information. Findings support the use of simple, yet complete (from the scientific point of view) AQ content, enriched by graphics search facilities and search functions, giving links to other information sources, and providing information for children via games and other specially designed information modules. In addition, a recently published survey on real time AQ information for asthma patients, showed that the respondents would like to receive information related to monitoring and self-management of asthma, including avoidance measurements and prevention, thus enhancing the importance of air quality modeling coupled with health assessment estimations. A detailed review of projects and research initiatives concerning air quality information services may be found in Karatzas, 2007 and will be included in the website (see the section titled 'Relevant websites').

Examples of Applications Web-based integration

The main components for AQM integration are model servers, where the different simulation models are executed (for different environmental domains of interest, like air quality, coastal and ground water quality), and database servers including the online connection to monitoring networks. The need for the integration of a number of information resources in an efficient way for AQM purposes was underlined already in the frame of a number of research projects conducted with the support of the European Union in the 90s, in the frame of the Informatics for the Environment umbrella. One of the most advanced projects at that time was ECOSIM, that suggested a client-server architecture, based on TCP/IP and http. The main server coordinated the various information resources and provided the elements of the user interface: graphical display, GIS, and an embedded expert system that supports users with the definition of scenarios for analysis.

A wizard is basically a series of screens or dialog boxes that users follow through the completion of a task. Generally, each wizard screen asks users to enter information, either by making selections, or filling in fields. In the case of environ-mental-AQ simulations, the web-based wizard application helps the user in going through the whole AQ simulation process by providing a workflow scenario to be followed, accompanied by logical checks and support functions. To this end, wizards should be considered application services which are designed in such a way that they (1) help the user to apply a state-of-the-art AQmodeling tool in an easy, stepwise way,

Figure 7 Basic architecture of the model user's interface wizard application.

(2). 'save' time by remembering user's previous actions and choices/decisions and (3) explain every step needed to continue until the final objective is accomplished. An example of a wizard application is the Model User's Interface, which is a generalized, wizard-based, interface application, which allows for remote workflow management of scientific simulation tasks, and has already been applied in air quality modeling (see Figure 7), and in nondestructive testing calculations alike. The implementation of the MUI is based on Java Web Start technologies for the client and Tomcat4 servlet container for the server. Thus, the platform used for development is J2SDK1.4 (see the section titled 'Relevant websites'). The client is aJava2 Swing application that makes use of Java Web Start technology to enable remote application invocation. The server is currently built on Java Servlet2.3 technology and the development environment was a GNU/Linux system with Tomcat4.1 servlet container and PostgreSQL7.3 database. The user may, thus, invoke the graphical interface of the application, and be guided though the appropriate selection of variables, upload of necessary data files and execution of batch jobs of models that are originally written in languages like Fortran (a schematic architecture of the application is provided in Figure 1).

The simulation may be executed in a remote, dedicated server, while the results may be downloaded and forwarded to the necessary postprocessing upon finishing. It should be noted that the application is fully parametrized, user-tailored, and localized (now supporting multilingual environments), easily adaptable to any type of AQ model.

Web services

Augmented web services are the next-generation process-aware services that enable meaningful end-to-end interactions in an application agnostic ecosystem. These Web services represent evolving open-standards initiatives driven by standards bodies such as OASIS, W3C, JCP, etc. Thus, Web services may be considered as true software components or 'artifacts' that lend themselves well to modeling techniques. This is not the only reason why web services are considered to be an appropriate technology for the support of scientific simulations, and more specifically for AQM. The application of web services technologies in the environmental sector has been reported for both data and processes, and is already being standardized in various engineering disciplines.

Contemporary AQM require for input resulting from heterogeneous sources (spanning from land-use satellite data to upper troposphere boundary and initial conditions and earth-based emission observations), while they include modules that should be invoked only when they are required and not at all times, in operational basis (aerosol modules, cloud modules, photochemistry, etc.). This heterogeneity concerning both information and simulation resources formulates the 'ideal' environment of web service applications, which seem to be one of the main drives toward the future of scientific simulations, in general, leading to an advanced AQM environment.

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