In 1973, scientist concluded that controlling UK air pollution needed Europe-wide cooperation
July’s record-breaking temperatures brought summertime smog to most of the UK. Worst affected was eastern England, from Kent to Yorkshire, where air pollution reached seven on the government’s10-point scale.
The heatwave occurred just before the 100th birthday of the scientist James Lovelock. Best known for his Gaia theory, which hypothesises that life on Earth acts as a self-regulating system, Lovelock was also an atmospheric scientist. In 1973 he was part of a team investigating summertime smog in the UK and Ireland. Up until then the idea that the UK, with its damp grey summers, could experience smog like Los Angeles was thought so improbable that no one had made measurements to check. Lovelock and team set up a line of measurement sites from a water tower in Sibton, Suffolk, to Adrigole, near Cork. Not only was there enough smog in the UK to breach US health limits but it was taking days to form in the air, sometimes from sources up to 620 miles (1,000km) away in continental Europe.