Articles | Volume 17, issue 2
Research article
20 Jan 2017
Research article |  | 20 Jan 2017

The dynamical impact of Rossby wave breaking upon UK PM10 concentration

Christopher P. Webber, Helen F. Dacre, William J. Collins, and Giacomo Masato

Abstract. Coarse particulate matter (PM10) has long been understood to be hazardous to human health, with mortality rates increasing as a result of raised ground level concentrations. We explore the influence of synoptic-scale meteorology on daily mean observed PM10 concentration ([PM10]) using Rossby wave breaking (RWB). Meteorological reanalysis data for the winter months (DJF) between January 1999 and December 2008 and observed PM10 data for three urban background UK (Midland) sites were analysed. Three RWB diagnostics were used to identify RWB that had significant influence on UK Midland PM10. RWB events were classified according to whether the RWB was cyclonic or anticyclonic in its direction of breaking and whether the RWB event was influenced more by poleward or equatorial air masses.

We find that there is a strong link between RWB events and UK [PM10]. Significant increases (p  <  0.01) in UK [PM10] were seen 1 day following RWB occurring in spatially constrained northeast Atlantic–European regions. Analysis into episodic PM10 exceedance events shows increased probability of [PM10] exceedance associated with all RWB subsets. The greatest probability of exceeding the UK [PM10] threshold was associated with cyclonic RWB preceded by anticyclonic RWB forming an Ω block synoptic pattern. This mechanism suggests an easterly advection of European PM10 followed by prolonged stagnant conditions within the UK and led to an almost threefold increase in the probability of the UK Midlands exceeding a hazardous [PM10] threshold (0.383), when compared to days where no RWB was detected (0.129).

Short summary
The influence of synoptic meteorology on UK PM10 concentration ([PM110]) is analysed. ERA-Interim reanalysis data are used to detect upper-tropospheric wave breaking that explains much of the UK winter synoptic meteorological variability. Wave breaking is shown to positively impact UK [PM10], with a persistent Ω block feature resulting in the greatest probability of exceeding a hazardous UK [PM10]. The meteorological dynamics of UK PM10 exceedances are better understood following this study.
Final-revised paper