Impacts of atmospheric blocking on extreme air pollution over Europe: Implications under climate change

Collaborating Scientists: Prof. Dr. Tim Butler (IASS) and Prof. Dr. Henning Rust (FU)

Project Outline

Air pollution represents a serious risk to health globally, and it is considered the largest environmental cause of premature death worldwide (WHO, 2014). In addition, the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes) states that warming in the climate system is unequivocal and human influence on the climate system is clear. A critical implication of climate change is to alter the frequency and intensity of climate extreme events (e.g. heat waves, cold spells). The strong linkage between climate and air pollution, in particular ozone (O3) pollution, makes imperative to provide a better understanding of their joint impacts to define efficient mitigation measures. Moreover, early studies suggested that changes in emissions of ozone precursors, in particular oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emission reductions in polluted areas, would lead to a lower sensitivity of surface ozone to temperature. However, the different processes responsible for causing the O3-temperature relationship are not well quantified. Recent modelling studies have pointed out that other meteorological processes, such as stagnation, transport or humidity can be key driving factors in explaining the O3-temperature relationship. 

Therefore, a new observational-based method has been proposed to model the rate of change of O3 as a function of NOx and temperature, among other covariates. The results from this work will provide new insights on how the climate penalty factor is changing and the implications under a warmer climate. In addition, the presented project assesses the impacts of large-scale atmospheric circulation, with the focus on blocking activity, on extreme air pollution and the implications under climate change over Europe. 


Otero, N., Sillmann, J., Mar, K. A., Rust, H. W., Solberg, S., Andersson, C., Engardt, M., Bergström, R., Bessagnet, B., Colette, A., Couvidat, F., Cuvelier, C., Tsyro, S., Fagerli, H., Schaap, M., Manders, A., Mircea, M., Briganti, G., Cappelletti, A., Adani, M., D'Isidoro, M., Pay, M.-T., Theobald, M., Vivanco, M. G., Wind, P., Ojha, N., Raffort, V., and Butler, T.: A multi-model comparison of meteorological drivers of surface ozone over Europe, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 18, 12269–12288,, 2018.

Colette, A., Andersson, C., Manders, A., Mar, K., Mircea, M., Pay, M.-T., Ra_ort,V., Tsyro, S., Cuvelier, C., Adani, M., Bessagnet, B., Bergstrm, R., Briganti, G., Butler, T., Cappelletti, A., Couvidat, F., D'Isidoro, M., Doumbia, T., Fagerli, H., Granier, C., Heyes, C., Klimont, Z., Ojha, Otero, N., Schaap, M., Sindelarova, K., Stegehuis, A. I., Roustan, Y., Vautard, R., van Meijgaard, E., Vivanco, M. G., and Wind, P.: EURODELTA-Trends, a multi-model experiment of air quality hindcast in Europe over 19902010, Geosci. Model Dev., 10, 3255-3276,, 2017

Otero, N., Sillmann, J. and Butler, T. Assessment of an extended version of the Jenkinson-Collison classi_cation on CMIP5 models over Europe." Clim Dyn doi:10.1007/s00382-017-3705-y, 2017

Otero, N., Sillmann, J., Schnell, J. L., Rust, H. W., and Butler, T. Synoptic and meteorological drivers of extreme ozone concentrations over Europe." Environ Res. Lett., 11, 024005, doi:10.1088/1748-9326/11/2/024005, 2016

Otero, N., Mohino, E. and Gaetani, M. Decadal prediction of Sahel rainfall using dynamics-based indices." Clim Dyn doi:10.1007/s00382-015-2738-3, 2015