The effect of climate change and emission scenarios on ozone concentrations over Belgium: a high-resolution model study for policy support
Abstract. Belgium is one of the areas within Europe experiencing the highest levels of air pollution. A high-resolution (3 km) modelling experiment is employed to provide guidance to policymakers about expected air quality changes in the near future (2026–2035). The regional air quality model AURORA (Air quality modelling in Urban Regions using an Optimal Resolution Approach), driven by output from a regional climate model, is used to simulate several 10-year time slices to investigate the impact of climatic changes and different emission scenarios on near-surface O3 concentrations, one of the key indices for air quality. Evaluation of the model against measurements from 34 observation stations shows that the AURORA model is capable of reproducing 10-year mean concentrations, daily cycles and spatial patterns. The results for the Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP)4.5 emission scenario indicate that the mean surface O3 concentrations are expected to increase significantly in the near future due to less O3 titration by reduced NOx emissions. Applying an alternative emission scenario for Europe is found to have only a minor impact on the overall concentrations, which are dominated by the background changes. Climate change alone has a much smaller effect on the near-surface O3 concentrations over Belgium than the projected emission changes. The very high horizontal resolution that is used in this study results in much improved spatial correlations and simulated peak concentrations compared to a standard 25 km simulation. An analysis of the number of peak episodes during summer revealed that the emission reductions in RCP4.5 result in a 25% decrease of these peak episodes.