3D visualization of traffic-induced air pollution impacts of urban transport schemes

El Said M. Zahran, Martin J. Smith, Lloyd D. Bennett

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The negative impacts of urban traffic growth are well known, e.g., congestion, increased air pollution, and more traffic noise. Humans can readily see traffic congestion, and can hear traffic noise, but inevitably they are much less aware of odorless, invisible, silent air pollution. Therefore, quite naturally people, whether the general public or transport professionals, struggle to visualize air pollution from traffic, and will find it particularly difficult to visualize changes in air pollution levels resulting from changes in traffic conditions because of the implementation of various urban transport schemes. Hence, there is always a risk of the air quality impacts of potential urban transport schemes being underappreciated. Therefore, this paper contributes to the knowledge by devising a new three-dimensional (3D) visualization approach for modeled air quality before and after the implementation of potential urban transport schemes. Using the Dunkirk area of the City of Nottingham in the United Kingdom as a case study, research has been undertaken to integrate an air pollution dispersion model for the pollutant NO2 with a 3D digital city model. The modeled NO2 concentrations, before and after the implementation of an urban transport scheme, were represented in the 3D city model at various heights above the ground: first, as 3D point shapes; second, as 3D planar surfaces; and finally, as 3D volumetric clouds. The 3D volumetric clouds approach used the analogy of people's perceptions of gray clouds in the sky as representing undesirable weather, and hence provided an intuitive 3D visualization of all the modeled NO2 concentrations, at and above the ground surface, in a single 3D virtual scene. Benefits have been identified in enhancing the level of understanding of the pollution dispersion using this new approach to visualization. This has allowed the visualization process to be used in the development of future traffic scenarios that could be used to alter the design of a proposed transport scheme to increase its air quality benefits. This 3D visualization approach was found to be applicable to other transport schemes in different parts of the City of Nottingham.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)452-465
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Computing in Civil Engineering
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • 3D Visualization graphic user interface
  • Air pollution modeling
  • Three-dimensional (3D) city models
  • Transport schemes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications


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