Particulate pollution from fireworks was significantly lower on New Year’s Day in Reykjavík this year than last, RÚV reports. While levels up to 4,600 micrograms per square metre were measured early on January 1, 2018, the highest measurements this year were only 1,600 micrograms. Þorsteinn Jóhannsson of the Environment Agency of Iceland’s climate department says a light breeze is to thank for the difference.
“It’s just the weather in itself that determines it,” Þorsteinn remarked. “There was a certain south or southeast wind blowing at two or three metres per second. Though that wasn’t much wind, it was enough to clear the air.” Þorsteinn added that along with pollution levels being lower, the particulate matter stuck around for much shorter this year than last. “It was mostly over by two or three [in the morning].”
Fireworks and ICE-SAR funding
Last year, windless weather on New Year’s Eve meant particulate pollution released by fireworks reached high levels – and stuck around. Increased awareness of pollution has sinced turned many locals off of the idea of setting off rockets, with around 50% saying they support a limit or ban on the sale of fireworks.
Firework sales leading up to New Year’s Eve are a significant source of funding for ICE-SAR, Iceland’s largely volunteer-run search and rescue organisation. This year, the organisation decided to sell seedlings as well, in a joint fundraising effort with the Icelandic Forest Service. It is not yet clear, however, whether the initiative led to lower sales of fireworks. “The weather is the main factor,” Þorsteinn insists. “My feeling was that there were not fewer fireworks.”