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Contract number
Time span of the project
Invited researcher
since December 2022 Minkina Tatyana Mikhailovna

As of 01.11.2022

Number of staff members
scientific publications
General information

The research of urban agglomerations – metropolises – is one of the most important interdisciplinary scientific problems of our time outlined in fundamental documents of the United Nations, the World Health Organisation, the national projects of the Russian Federation «Ecology» and «Healthcare» and national strategies of environment enhancement. Population growth in the largest cities is accompanied by the concentration of of transport, industry, waste, drastic changes to the environment. In major cities, temperature, wind and humidity fields, and the atmospheric radiation regime form peculiar «heat islands» that are starkly different from the surrounding territories in terms of their meteorological characteristics and processes. These aspects also affect other components of the urban environment. All the components of the urban environment – the atmosphere (aerosols, atmospheric precipitation, snow), urban soils, road dust, surface waters – withstand high anthropogenic pressure with the formation of «pollution islands» with radii of tens and even hundreds of kilometres. As a result, the urban environment is a «pollution and heat island». It affects the quality of life in cities, especially in metropolises where millions of people live. In Russia, Moscow is such a megapolis.  

The currently existing approaches, methods and technologies for the study of urban environments operate on the level of single components and are practised mainly within specific fields of studies. At the same time, the complexity of yet not quite explored physical and chemical process of interaction between the components of the urban environment requires the creation of a new comprehensive integrated research technology that would consider cities as peculiar anthropogenic geosystems. This technology is based, firstly, on the integration of modern methods of atmospheric physics, climatology, geochemistry, hydrology, and human ecology in the study of the components of the environment of metropolises and, secondly, on a unified basic research object both in the atmosphere and in the pedosphere and hydrosphere – micro- and nanoparticles that are the main carriers of contaminating substances and determine the essence of many physical and chemical processes taking place in these components of the urban environment as well as influence the health of the population. Such an integrated approach is used for the first time in Earth studies and life sciences.

Name of the project: The metropolis as an island of pollution and heat: an interdisciplinary hydroclimatic, geochemical and ecological analysis

Goals and objectives

The goal of the project is the creation of the scientific foundations for the interdisciplinary assessment of the state of a metropolis – «an island of contamination and heat» – by the example of Moscow using modern field survey methods of physics and chemistry and numerical modelling. To implement this project, we will create the Laboratory of Urban Environment Quality at the Faculty of Geography of the Moscow State University that will engage scientists from the Skobeltsyn Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Moscow State University (SIMP MSU) and the Research Computing Centre of the Moscow State University as well as the Hydrometeorological Centre of Russia. The Laboratory will be supervised by Markku Kulmala – a recognised world leader in this field of studies. The study of the climate and the ecology of cities is the most important component of geographic and geophysical sciences. The development of a system for the observation and numerical modelling (in particular, using the so-called «seamless modelling» technology) of «islands of contamination and heat» at various temporal and spatial scales in these conditions becomes one of the most relevant problems aimed at the understanding of complex physical and chemical processes of their formation.

The practical value of the study

Scientific results:

  1. The Laboratory of Urban Ecology and Climate has been created. We have developed its methodology for the analysis of the aerosol load of a megalopolis with a high level of air contamination on the basis of a unified approach for the quantitative determination of the nature of environmentally hazardous components of aerosols, the development of an instrumental database of real-time measurements of mass concentrations in air quality standards, the analysis of their daily, seasonal and annual variability in emissions caused by transport, industry, the centralized heating system and the residential sector.
  2. The foundations of the functioning of the atmospheric division of the Laboratory of Urban Ecology and Climate have been created on the basis of the instrumental aerosol complex of the Moscow State University that consists of a system for the continuous measurements of the number of particles and the distribution of the sizes from 5 nm and 10 μm, the mass concentration of black and organic carbon, sampling aerosols using the РМ10 impactor and onto filters by automated collectors for the subsequent analysis of elements, ions, polyaromatic hydrocarbons using methods of analytical chemistry.
  3. The extent of urban aerosol pollution has been measured in Moscow near the surface of the Earth and in the atmospheric column from data of the COSMO-ART model and measurements. We have found a decrease of the concentration of aerosol in the period of the COVID-19 lockdown, which is related to both the constraining measures and by the meteorological features; we have also assessed the indirect effects of aerosol on the cloud cover for this period.
  4. A Lagrange model has been developed that describes the transfer of particles in a turbulent flow over an urbanized surface. We have created a eddy-resolving model of the boundary level of the atmosphere over urbanized surface that accounts for the meso-scale atmospheric circulation. Using the meso-scale COSMO model and the refined parameters of the geological surface, we have obtained data with sub-kilometer dimension on the meteorological regime of the Moscow region for heat wave periods.
  5. The hydrological regime and the dynamics of solid runoff in the basin of River Setun has been studied. Our researchers have collected a database of the water discharge in the basin of the model urbanized river Setun with a frequency of 15-30 minutes, an analysis of which allowed to assess the runoff travel time. In the case of intense precipitation we have noticed a sharp rise in the water level over 6 to 12 hours and the achievement of peak levels exceeding the maximum levels occurring during high water. At the same time we observe intense flushing from the water catchment area with an increase of the muddiness of water by several times. The maximum values of the muddines of water reveal some delay relative to the water level, the increased muddiness in this case can be observed in the outlet for a several times longer period. A granulometric analysis of collected samples of suspended sediments in watercourses of the basin of River Setun demonstrated that the average size of particles of suspensions in urbanized watercourses is about two times less compared to the average values for rivers around the world, which is caused by a higher contribution of small particles with diameters not exceeding 10 μm.
  6. A landscape and geochemical survey of the basin of River Setun has been performed. It allowed to determine a characterization of the spatial inhomogeneity of the physico-chemical properties of soil cover and surface technogenic sediments, snow cover (atmospheric precipitation in the cold period) and road dust. In such depositing media we found some concentration of priority pollutants – heavy metals and metalloids – and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the functional zones of the studied territory.
  7. A detailed soil map for the basin of River Setun has been created, which characterizes the propagation of natural and anthropologically transformed soils their main properties and confinedness to various combinations of landscape and technogenic factors. The map provides an estimate of the spatial inhomogeneity of surface sediments participating in the formation of water and solid runoff of the river Setun.
  8. The obtained results of hydrological and hydrochemical and soil geochemical research in the basin of River Setun create the information foundations for the implementation of a model of the formation of runoff, the balance of sediments and pollutants of a small urban river for the assessment of their changes under the impact of both natural and anthropogenic factors. As a basis we used the physically substantiated soil-hydrological model SWAT with distributed parameters that includes modules for describing the transport of various pollutants. To account for the features of the landscape and the structure of the soil cover of the river basin, the interception of surface runoff by plants, soils and groundwater on the territory of the water catchment area, we isolated sub-basins that are separated into homogeneous elementary operation units. The model is implemented using GIS technologies that encompass various spatio-temporal data in a geoinformatics project. The impact of climate change and urbanization on the territory of the basin of River Setun the balance of sediments and pollutants will be assessed on the basis of a retrospective modeling over a relatively long time period (35-40 years). To determine the parameters of the model and its verification, in September 2022 we conducted field research. We established the soil profiles in the main soil phases common on the territory of the water catchment area, in which we found the morphological properties and hydrophysical parameters of soil landscapes that determine the prevailing directions of water runoff and the migration of pollutants.
  9. To implement the soil-hydrological model of a small urbanized catchment area, databases of spatially distributed data is being formed, with the data represented both in the vector and bitmap format. The spatial information unified within the GIS project include detailed data on the river network and bodies of water in the vector format that has been collected as a result of digitalization on base maps (Open Street Maps) and high-resolution images available in modern GIS packages (ArcGIS, QGIS). The data on the land use in the basin of River Setun was collected from deciphering archive (1984-2021) multi-zone images from Landsat 5 and Landsat 8. The set of bitmap images from various times featured images that underwent additional radiometric correction and recalculation into spectral brightness values at the upper bound of the atmosphere. We have created composite images that unite channels participating in classification. Our researchers have computed the spectral indices to clarify the affiliation of the deciphered objects with one of another class of land use.
  10. For the whole territory of Moscow we have obtained an estimate of the chemical composition of granulometric fractions of road dust in the eastern part of the city with an intense influence of industry and in the western part with strong impact from transport. Using the PCA-MLR method, we have determined the main sources of potentially toxic elements in granulometric fractions, obtained a quantitative assessment of the impacts of the sources. We collected data on the high-frequency variability of water quality indicators in the outlet of the Moskva river that allows to assess the impact of the whole Moscow urban agglomeration on the chemical composition of water in the river. The Moscow river, half of whose water and chemical runoff consists of waste waters of the city, is characterized by increased values water mineralization compared to other rivers of the region, whose runoff is formed mostly under the influence of natural factors. At the same time, in the winter and autumn period the aggregate content of dissolved substances is lower by a factor of nearly 1.5-2 compared to those observed in winter and autumn, which is apparently caused by the dissolving effect of the Moscow Canal, whose waters are used for the irrigation of the Moscow river to ensure navigation. In the period when navigation is suspended, in the middle and lower part of the river the stable volume of removed waste water leads to an increase in mineralization and a more than doubled muddiness of water. In the winter and autumn period the transfer of suspended substances by water streams becomes more active. In the case of higher levels, these substances become part of bottom sediments near dams located on the Moscow river.
  11. We have developed modified versions of software for the high-resolution hydrodynamic modeling of air and admixture circulation in urban development areas. This software can be used for diagnosing and predicting air quality in urbanized territories.
Implementation of research results:

We are implementing the software developed by the Laboratory for the monitoring of the components of the radiation balance and UV radiation at the Meteorological observatory of the Moscow State University.

Education and retraining of personnel:

  • Two Candidate of Sciences dissertations have been prepared and defended.
  • We have developed a section of the discipline «Geoinfomatic analysis of urban ecosystems and landscapes» devoted to the digital mapping of urban soils (for students of the master’s degree program «Urban ecology» by the senior research fellow Olga V. Chernitsova).
  • Data on the results of the measurements was included in lecture courses in physical meteorology, hydrometeorological databases, the climate and atmosphere of big cities, into the inter-faculty course «Solar radiation and the biosphere». The results were presented at the specialized international conferences «IRS 2022» (Greece), «ECUVM 2022» (Austria).
  • Our researchers have developed the laboratory case study for students and interns of the Faculty of Geophysics «Micro-scale modeling of wind speed in urban development areas».
  • In 2022, employees of the Laboratory developed the additional training program for young researchers «Environmental assessment of water systems». The goal of the program is to form a notion of the methods of water reservoir assessment in environmental research, the diversity and the relations between the specifics of reservoirs and their communities. In this course, the hydrological features of reservoirs are reviewed from the viewpoint of their importance for the ecosystem functions. Special attention is paid to the assessment of water quality and the modeling of the propagation of pollutants with water streams, methods of the assessment of the balances of pollutants within the boundaries of river systems in urbanized territories.

  • National Center of Scientific Research «Demokritos» (Greece), University of Bologna (Italy): collaborative publications in the leading international journals: «Atmospheric pollution research», «Nature Geoscience», «Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics», «Atmospheric Environment».
  • Institute of Monitoring of Climatic and Ecological Systems of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Marchuk Institute of Numerical Mathematics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Obukhov Institute of Atmospheric Physics (Russia): joint development of mathematical models of the boundary layer, monitoring of the structure of atmospheric turbulence in urban development areas, joint academic events (conference of the CITES, ENVIROMIS series in 2021 and 2022).
  • Finnish Meteorological Institute (Finland): collaboration in the assessment of emission of pollutants (2021).
  • University College London (England): internships of master’s degree students (2022).

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varentsov, m., fenner, d., meier, f., samsonov, t., & demuzere, m.
Quantifying Local and Mesoscale Drivers of the Urban Heat Island of Moscow with Reference and Crowdsourced Observations. Front. Environ. Sci. 9:716968. doi: 10.3389/fenvs.2021.716968 (2021)
varentsova, s. a., & varentsov, m. i.
A new approach to study the long-term urban heat island evolution using time-dependent spectroscopy, Urban Climate 40(1):101026 DOI:10.1016/j.uclim.2021.101026 (2021)
nezis ioannis, biskos george, eleftheriadis konstantinos, fetfatzis prodromos, popovicheva olga, sitnikov nikolay, kalantzi olga-ioanna
Linking indoor particulate matter and black carbon with sick building syndrome symptoms in a public office building, Atmospheric Pollution Research 13(1):101292 DOI:10.1016/j.apr.2021.101292 (2021)
konstantinov p.i. , varentsov m.i., shartova n.v.
North Eurasian thermal comfort indices dataset (NETCID): new gridded database for the biometeorological studies, Environmental Research Letters 17(8):085006 DOI:10.1088/1748-9326/ac7fa9 (2022)
chubarova n.e., vogel h., androsova e.e., kirsanov a.a., popovicheva o.b., vogel b., rivin g.s.
Columnar and surface urban aerosol in Moscow megacity according to measurements and simulations with COSMO-ART model, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 22:10443-10466 DOI:10.5194/acp-2022-83 (2022)
natalia e. kosheleva, dmitry v. vlasov, ivan v. timofeev, timofey e. samsonov, and nikolay s. kasimov
Benzo[a]pyrene in Moscow road dust: pollution levels and health risks, Environmental Geochemistry and Health 1287:1-26 DOI: 10.1007/s10653-022-01287-9 (2022)
shinkareva g., erina o., tereshina m., sokolov d., lychagin m., kasimov n.
Anthropogenic factors affecting the Moskva River water quality: levels and sources of nutrients and potentially toxic elements in Moscow metropolitan area, Environmental Geochemistry and Health 1-29 DOI:10.1007/s10653-022-01393-8 (2022)
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