Articles | Volume 14, issue 18
Research article
29 Sep 2014
Research article |  | 29 Sep 2014

Linking climate and air quality over Europe: effects of meteorology on PM2.5 concentrations

A. G. Megaritis, C. Fountoukis, P. E. Charalampidis, H. A. C. Denier van der Gon, C. Pilinis, and S. N. Pandis

Abstract. The effects of various meteorological parameters such as temperature, wind speed, absolute humidity, precipitation and mixing height on PM2.5 concentrations over Europe were examined using a three-dimensional chemical transport model, PMCAMx-2008. Our simulations covered three periods, representative of different seasons (summer, winter, and fall). PM2.5 appears to be more sensitive to temperature changes compared to the other meteorological parameters in all seasons.

PM2.5 generally decreases as temperature increases, although the predicted changes vary significantly in space and time, ranging from −700 ng m−3 K−1 (−8% K−1) to 300 ng m−3 K−1 (7% K−1). The predicted decreases of PM2.5 are mainly due to evaporation of ammonium nitrate, while the higher biogenic emissions and the accelerated gas-phase reaction rates increase the production of organic aerosol (OA) and sulfate, having the opposite effect on PM2.5. The predicted responses of PM2.5 to absolute humidity are also quite variable, ranging from −130 ng m−3 %−1 (−1.6% %−1) to 160 ng m−3 %−1 (1.6% %−1) dominated mainly by changes in inorganic PM2.5 species. An increase in absolute humidity favors the partitioning of nitrate to the aerosol phase and increases the average PM2.5 during summer and fall. Decreases in sulfate and sea salt levels govern the average PM2.5 response to humidity during winter. A decrease of wind speed (keeping the emissions constant) increases all PM2.5 species (on average 40 ng m−3 %−1) due to changes in dispersion and dry deposition. The wind speed effects on sea salt emissions are significant for PM2.5 concentrations over water and in coastal areas. Increases in precipitation have a negative effect on PM2.5 (decreases up to 110 ng m−3 %−1) in all periods due to increases in wet deposition of PM2.5 species and their gas precursors. Changes in mixing height have the smallest effects (up to 35 ng m−3 %−1) on PM2.5 .

Regarding the relative importance of each of the meteorological parameters in a changed future climate, the projected changes in precipitation are expected to have the largest impact on PM2.5 levels during all periods (changes up to 2 μg m−3 in the fall). The expected effects in future PM2.5 levels due to wind speed changes are similar in all seasons and quite close to those resulting from future precipitation changes (up to 1.4 μg m−3). The expected increases in absolute humidity in the future can lead to large changes in PM2.5 levels (increases up to 2 μg m−3) mainly in the fall due to changes in particulate nitrate levels. Despite the high sensitivity of PM2.5 levels to temperature, the small expected increases of temperature in the future will lead to modest PM2.5 changes and will not dominate the overall change.

Final-revised paper