Articles | Volume 17, issue 4
Research article
28 Feb 2017
Research article |  | 28 Feb 2017

Regional responses of surface ozone in Europe to the location of high-latitude blocks and subtropical ridges

Carlos Ordóñez, David Barriopedro, Ricardo García-Herrera, Pedro M. Sousa, and Jordan L. Schnell

Abstract. This paper analyses for the first time the impact of high-latitude blocks and subtropical ridges on near-surface ozone (O3) in Europe during a 15-year period. For this purpose, a catalogue of blocks and ridges over the Euro–Atlantic region is used together with a gridded dataset of maximum daily 8 h running average ozone (MDA8 O3) covering the period 1998–2012. The response of ozone to the location of blocks and ridges with centres in three longitudinal sectors (Atlantic, ATL, 30–0° W; European, EUR, 0–30° E; Russian, RUS, 30–60° E) is examined. The impact of blocks on ozone is regionally and seasonally dependent. In particular, blocks within the EUR sector yield positive ozone anomalies of  ∼  5–10 ppb over large parts of central Europe in spring and northern Europe in summer. Over 20 and 30 % of the days with blocks in that sector register exceedances of the 90th percentile of the seasonal ozone distribution at many European locations during spring and summer, respectively. The impacts of ridges during those seasons are subtle and more sensitive to their specific location, although they can trigger ozone anomalies above 10 ppb in northern Italy and the surrounding countries in summer, eventually exceeding European air quality (AQ) targets. During winter, surface ozone in the north-west of Europe presents completely opposite responses to blocks and ridges. The anticyclonic circulation associated with winter EUR blocking, and to a lesser extent with ATL blocking, yields negative ozone anomalies between −5 and −10 ppb over the UK, northern France and the Benelux. Conversely, the enhanced zonal flow around 50–60° N during the occurrence of ATL ridges favours the arrival of background air masses from the Atlantic and the ventilation of the boundary layer, producing positive ozone anomalies of  ∼  5 ppb in an area spanning from the British Isles to the northern half of Germany. We also show that multiple linear models on the seasonal frequency of occurrence of these synoptic patterns can explain a considerable fraction of the interannual variability in some winter and summer ozone statistics (mean levels and number of exceedances of the 90th percentile) over some regions of western Europe. Thus, this work provides the first quantitative assessments of the remarkable but distinct impacts that the anticyclonic circulation and the diversion of the zonal flow associated with blocks and ridges exert on surface ozone in Europe. The findings reported here can be exploited in the future to evaluate the modelled responses of ozone to circulation changes within chemical transport models (CTMs) and chemistry–climate models (CCMs).

Short summary
Blocks and ridges are synoptic patterns associated with an anticyclonic circulation. They also divert the atmospheric flow. This work proves that near-surface ozone in Europe is sensitive to these patterns. This quantitative assessment has been performed on a seasonal basis for a 15-year period. The results can be exploited in the future to evaluate modelled ozone responses to atmospheric circulation changes and to understand the contribution of dynamic effects to air quality projections.
Final-revised paper