Using Neural Network NO2-Predictions to Understand Air Quality Changes in Urban Areas—A Case Study in Hamburg


Due to the link between air pollutants and human health, reliable model estimates of hourly pollutant concentrations are of particular interest. Artificial neural networks (ANNs) are powerful modeling tools capable of reproducing the observed variations in pollutants with high accuracy. We present a simple ANN for the city of Hamburg that estimated the hourly NO2 concentration. The model was trained with a ten-year dataset (2007–2016), tested for the year 2017, and then applied to assess the efficiency of countermeasures against air pollution implemented since 2018. Using both meteorological data and describing the weekday dependent traffic variabilities as predictors, the model performed accurately and showed high consistency over the test data. This proved to be very efficient in detecting anomalies in the time series. The further the prediction was from the time of the training data, the more the modeled data deviated from the measured data. Using the model, we could detect changes in the time series that did not follow previous trends in the training data. The largest deviation occurred during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, when traffic volumes decreased significantly. Concluding our case study, the ANN based approach proved suitable for modeling the NO2 concentrations and allowed for the assessment of the efficiency of policy measures addressing air pollution.
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