The air we breathe is all around us. Studying what it's made of and how it changes is vital to our health, and to understanding the weather and our changing climate - helping us better predict and prepare for extreme weather and understand the very real effects that human activity is having on our atmosphere.
Air pollution is estimated to cause 29,000 premature deaths in England every year. People living in the UK's cities are particularly at risk, as they breathe in the tiny particles and noxious gasses from the huge numbers of cars on the road and severe traffic congestion, as well as other transport and industry.
NERC invests around £3m each year in air pollution research. Decades of NERC research has fed into local and national government policies to reduce the major causes of air pollution in the UK. Air pollution is associated with a range of serious health problems, including heart and lung diseases which can lead to premature death. Our science is helping people understand the risks and manage their exposure.
Internationally, polluted air is an increasingly urgent problem as huge numbers of people move into expanding cities. NERC is investing in major research programmes in some of the world's most toxic megacities. This autumn, UK scientists are heading out to smoggy Beijing in China to conduct research into air pollution processes and their effects on human health, to boost global understanding of one of the world's biggest challenges.
Our changing climate
Scientists from the NERC National Centre for Atmospheric Science - external link - took to the skies in the FAAM aircraft in India this summer to take atmospheric measurements at the onset of the Asian monsoon for the very first time. The research sheds light on one of the world's most mysterious weather phenomena and helps build the picture of our rapidly changing global climate.
In the UK, NERC-funded scientists are conducting ground-breaking research into clouds, storms and the chemical processes in the sky to further our understanding of weather and climate systems, helping to ensure to UK is in the best possible position to deal with extreme weather and climate change in the decades to come.