Articles | Volume 17, issue 21
Review article
08 Nov 2017
Review article |  | 08 Nov 2017

Atmospheric pollution over the eastern Mediterranean during summer – a review

Uri Dayan, Philippe Ricaud, Régina Zbinden, and François Dulac

Abstract. The eastern Mediterranean (EM) is one of the regions in the world where elevated concentrations of primary and secondary gaseous air pollutants have been reported frequently, mainly in summer. This review discusses published studies of the atmospheric dispersion and transport conditions characterizing this region during the summer, followed by a description of some essential studies dealing with the corresponding concentrations of air pollutants such as ozone, carbon monoxide, total reactive nitrogen, methane, and sulfate aerosols observed there.

The interlaced relationship between the downward motion of the subsiding air aloft induced by global circulation systems affecting the EM and the depth of the Persian Trough, a low-pressure trough that extends from the Asian monsoon at the surface controlling the spatiotemporal distribution of the mixed boundary layer during summer, is discussed. The strength of the wind flow within the mixed layer and its depth affect much the amount of pollutants transported and determine the potential of the atmosphere to disperse contaminants off their origins in the EM. The reduced mixed layer and the accompanying weak westerlies, characterizing the summer in this region, led to reduced ventilation rates, preventing an effective dilution of the contaminants. Several studies pointing at specific local (e.g., ventilation rates) and regional peculiarities (long-range transport) enhancing the build-up of air pollutant concentrations are presented.

Tropospheric ozone (O3) concentrations observed in the summer over the EM are among the highest over the Northern Hemisphere. The three essential processes controlling its formation (i.e., long-range transport of polluted air masses, dynamic subsidence at mid-tropospheric levels, and stratosphere-to-troposphere exchange) are reviewed. Airborne campaigns and satellite-borne initiatives have indicated that the concentration values of reactive nitrogen identified as precursors in the formation of O3 over the EM were found to be 2 to 10 times higher than in the hemispheric background troposphere. Several factors favor sulfate particulate abundance over the EM. Models, aircraft measurements, and satellite-derived data have clearly shown that sulfate has a maximum during spring and summer over the EM. The carbon monoxide (CO) seasonal cycle, as obtained from global background monitoring sites in the EM, is mostly controlled by the tropospheric concentration of the hydroxyl radical (OH) and therefore demonstrates high concentrations over winter months and the lowest concentrations during summer when photochemistry is active. Modeling studies have shown that the diurnal variations in CO concentration during the summer result from long-range CO transport from European anthropogenic sources, contributing 60 to 80 % of the boundary-layer CO over the EM. The values retrieved from satellite data enable us to derive the spatial distribution of methane (CH4), identifying August as the month with the highest levels over the EM. The outcomes of a recent extensive examination of the distribution of methane over the tropospheric Mediterranean Basin, as part of the Chemistry-Aerosol Mediterranean Experiment (ChArMEx) program, using model simulations and satellite measurements, are coherent with other previous studies. Moreover, this methane study provides some insight into the role of the Asian monsoon anticyclone in controlling the variability of CH4 pollutant within mid-to-upper tropospheric levels above the EM in summer.

Final-revised paper