Investigating long-term changes in European air quality in the satellite era

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


Society is becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of poor air quality. Air pollutants, such as ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM2.5 and 10-particles with diameters of less than 2.5 and 10 um, respectively), can have significant impacts on human health. Exposure to significantly elevated levels of surface ozone can cause reduced respiratory function and cardiovascular problems. It is estimated that poor UK air quality results in approximately 40,000 premature deaths annually and costs society £8.5-20.2 billion per year.

Over recent decades, European air quality legislation has led to the reduction of many air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM2.5 - particles with diameters of less than 2.5 um). However, many observational studies have shown that in Western Europe the secondary pollutant ozone (O3), has been increasing at the surface and in the free troposphere. This project will use atmospheric chemistry modelling and satellite observations of tropospheric O3 to investigate which processes (e.g. emission of precursor gases and/or long range transport) are forcing these increases in Western European O3 concentrations. The resulting work will help quantify to what extent anthropogenic activities (e.g. emissions) are driving the trend in O3 and how much can be explained by natural processes (for example stratospheric-tropospheric exchanges).

This project will provide excellent training in numerical modelling and satellite data analysis. It relates to a very topical public health issue and is a very active area of research.


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