Articles | Volume 15, issue 19
Research article
08 Oct 2015
Research article |  | 08 Oct 2015

The influence of synoptic weather regimes on UK air quality: regional model studies of tropospheric column NO2

R. J. Pope, N. H. Savage, M. P. Chipperfield, C. Ordóñez, and L. S. Neal

Abstract. Synoptic meteorology can have a significant influence on UK air quality. Cyclonic conditions lead to the dispersion of air pollutants away from source regions, while anticyclonic conditions lead to their accumulation over source regions. Meteorology also modifies atmospheric chemistry processes such as photolysis and wet deposition. Previous studies have shown a relationship between observed satellite tropospheric column NO2 and synoptic meteorology in different seasons. Here, we test whether the UK Met Office Air Quality in the Unified Model (AQUM) can reproduce these observations and then use the model to explore the relative importance of various factors. We show that AQUM successfully captures the observed relationships when sampled under the Lamb weather types, an objective classification of midday UK circulation patterns. By using a range of idealized NOx-like tracers with different e-folding lifetimes, we show that under different synoptic regimes the NO2 lifetime in AQUM is approximately 6 h in summer and 12 h in winter. The longer lifetime can explain why synoptic spatial tropospheric column NO2 variations are more significant in winter compared to summer, due to less NO2 photochemical loss. We also show that cyclonic conditions have more seasonality in tropospheric column NO2 than anticyclonic conditions as they result in more extreme spatial departures from the wintertime seasonal average. Within a season (summer or winter) under different synoptic regimes, a large proportion of the spatial pattern in the UK tropospheric column NO2 field can be explained by the idealized model tracers, showing that transport is an important factor in governing the variability of UK air quality on seasonal synoptic timescales.

Final-revised paper