Export of Ozone and Precursors from Europe and Impacts on Air Quality, Climate and Ecosystems

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: School of Earth and Environment


This project will quantify the impacts of processes that control export of pollution from Europe on air quality, climate and ecosystems. These processes currently lack observational constraint, and our understanding is largely based on model simulations. We will conduct the first studies of European pollution export constrained by extensive aircraft and satellite observations, and quantify air quality and climate impacts. We will also quantify the role of ozone pollution from Europe in reducing CO2 uptake to European and Siberian forest, due to its harmful effects on vegetation. This will be compared with the direct climate impact of European ozone as a greenhouse gas. This will also allow quantification of a reduction in the effectiveness of CO2 emission cuts due to ozone limitation of carbon uptake to the biosphere, which is of urgent interest to policy makers and governments. Ozone is a pollutant in the lower atmosphere, which is not emitted directly, but is formed in the atmosphere by sunlight-driven chemical reactions acting on nitrogen oxides emitted from high-temperature fuel combustion (primarily motor vehicles, power plants, biomass burning) and volatile organic compounds, emitted from both man-made and natural sources. Ozone is a strong oxidant and a greenhouse gas in the lower atmosphere, and its concentrations have increased markedly since pre-industrial times. It is harmful to human health, and also damages vegetation. This leads to substantial reductions in crop yields, and also results in a reduction in the ability of vegetation to take up CO2 from the atmosphere - meaning it may result in further 'indirect' greenhouse warming. Export of pollution from the major continents in controlled by transfer of pollutants from the surface boundary layer (BL) to the overlying large-scale free troposphere (FT), where it can be transported over 1000s km. Over North America and Asia this 'venting' of the BL is controlled largely by fronts associated with low-pressure weather systems, however over central Europe these are much less frequent. Processes controlling European pollution export are much less well understood, and our lack of understanding is exacerbated by a lack of observations in regions downstream from Europe (mainly Arctic, Siberia and over the Mediterranean basin). Our approach will be to use new observations from aircraft experiments over the Arctic and Siberia, satellites and numerical models to quantify the roles of dynamic and chemical processes in controlling ozone pollution export from Europe. We will investigate how these processes determine the air quality and climate impacts of European ozone precursor emissions. In addition, we will determine how anthropogenic and natural processes interact to affect these processes, and quantify the impact of European ozone pollution on CO2 uptake to European and Siberian vegetation. We will finally quantify how these processes may change under future climate (year 2050).


10 25 50

Description - Crop yields in a given continent can be significantly affected by ozone pollution that is sourced from non-local sources in neighbouring continents.

- Forest fires appear to be a large source of ozone pollution at high latitudes.

- Models are highly variable in how they estimate the amount of pollution from Europe (and other continents) that reaches the Arctic. This appears more related to differences in model chemistry than model transport.
Exploitation Route Our findings have already contributed to outcomes of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme expert group 2015 report on "Black Carbon and Ozone as Arctic Climate Forcers".

Findings on agricultural impacts will be of interest to policy makers and groups such as the UN-ECE Task Force on Hemispheric Transport of Air Pollution.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Transport

Description Some findings contributed to the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme assessment of black carbon and ozone as climate forcers in the Arctic.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Energy,Environment,Healthcare
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

Title POLMIP model comparison simulations 
Description As part of the EurEX project we co-led an international model comparison project focussed on the export of mid-latitude pollution to the Arctic. This involved 10 models from international groups. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2012 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact New understanding regarding the causes of model deficiencies and differences between models in their simulation of tropospheric ozone and its precursors in the Arctic. For the first time we were able to separate the impacts of different chemical processes and different dynamic process in controlling some of these differences. 
URL https://www2.acd.ucar.edu/gcm/polmip
Description AMAP Expert Group participation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Contributed to expertise on the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme expert group on "Black Carbon and Ozone as Arctic Climate Forcers". This is an international group of experts concerned with the effects of air pollution on Arctic climate. This led to the production of an assessment report in 2015 (see loin below).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016
URL http://www.amap.no/documents/doc/amap-assessment-2015-black-carbon-and-ozone-as-arctic-climate-force...
Description NERC Into the Blue 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A presentation was given at the NERC Into the Blue event in Manchester in October 2016, focussed on improving public understanding of Arctic air pollution and climate change. The audience was mainly co prised of children and parents, and other members of the general public. Questions were sparked regarding how much Arctic climate has changed, how much of our air pollution makes it to the Arctic. The audience size was around 60 people, split across two sessions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://intotheblue.nerc.ac.uk/manchester/
Description Public lecture 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Created a thoughtful dialogue on the role of atmospheric chemistry in climate change amongst a public audience, including school children.

Increased twitter following, which feeds through into increased exposure of my tweets on science.

One or two of audience commented that they had a clearer perception of climate change issues following talk.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013