Articles | Volume 15, issue 21
Research article
13 Nov 2015
Research article |  | 13 Nov 2015

The effects of global change upon United States air quality

R. Gonzalez-Abraham, S. H. Chung, J. Avise, B. Lamb, E. P. Salathé Jr., C. G. Nolte, D. Loughlin, A. Guenther, C. Wiedinmyer, T. Duhl, Y. Zhang, and D. G. Streets

Abstract. To understand more fully the effects of global changes on ambient concentrations of ozone and particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter smaller than 2.5 μm (PM2.5) in the United States (US), we conducted a comprehensive modeling effort to evaluate explicitly the effects of changes in climate, biogenic emissions, land use and global/regional anthropogenic emissions on ozone and PM2.5 concentrations and composition. Results from the ECHAM5 global climate model driven with the A1B emission scenario from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were downscaled using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model to provide regional meteorological fields. We developed air quality simulations using the Community Multiscale Air Quality Model (CMAQ) chemical transport model for two nested domains with 220 and 36 km horizontal grid cell resolution for a semi-hemispheric domain and a continental United States (US) domain, respectively. The semi-hemispheric domain was used to evaluate the impact of projected global emissions changes on US air quality. WRF meteorological fields were used to calculate current (2000s) and future (2050s) biogenic emissions using the Model of Emissions of Gases and Aerosols from Nature (MEGAN). For the semi-hemispheric domain CMAQ simulations, present-day global emissions inventories were used and projected to the 2050s based on the IPCC A1B scenario. Regional anthropogenic emissions were obtained from the US Environmental Protection Agency National Emission Inventory 2002 (EPA NEI2002) and projected to the future using the MARKet ALlocation (MARKAL) energy system model assuming a business as usual scenario that extends current decade emission regulations through 2050. Our results suggest that daily maximum 8 h average ozone (DM8O) concentrations will increase in a range between 2 to 12 parts per billion (ppb) across most of the continental US. The highest increase occurs in the South, Central and Midwest regions of the US due to increases in temperature, enhanced biogenic emissions and changes in land use. The model predicts an average increase of 1–6 ppb in DM8O due to projected increase in global emissions of ozone precursors. The effects of these factors are only partially offset by reductions in DM8O associated with decreasing US anthropogenic emissions. Increases in PM2.5 levels between 4 and 10 μg m−3 in the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest and South regions are mostly a result of increase in primary anthropogenic particulate matter (PM), enhanced biogenic emissions and land use changes. Changes in boundary conditions shift the composition but do not alter overall simulated PM2.5 mass concentrations.

Final-revised paper