Intercontinental transport of pollution and dust aerosols: implications for regional air quality
Abstract. We use the global model GOCART to examine the impact of pollution and dust aerosols emitted from their major sources on surface fine particulate matter concentrations at regional and hemispheric scales. Focusing on the North America region in 2001, we use measurements from the IMPROVE network in the United States to evaluate the model-simulated surface concentrations of the "reconstructed fine mass" (RCFM) and its components of ammonium sulfate, black carbon (BC), organic matter (OM), and fine mode dust. We then quantify the RCFM budget in terms of the RCFM chemical composition, source type, and region of origin to find that in the eastern U.S., ammonium sulfate is the dominant RCFM component (~60%) whereas in the western U.S., dust and OM are just as important as sulfate but have considerable seasonal variations, especially in the NW. On an annual average, pollution aerosol (defined as aerosols from fuel combustion for industrial and transportation uses) from North America accounts for 65–70% of the surface RCFM in the eastern U.S. and for a lower proportion of 30–40% in the western U.S.; by contrast, pollution from outside of North America contributes to just 2–6% (~0.2 μg m−3) of the total RCFM over the U.S. In comparison, long-range transport of dust brings 3 to 4 times more fine particles than the transport of pollution to the U.S. (0.5–0.8 μg m−3 on an annual average) with a maximum influence in spring and over the NW. Of the major pollution regions, Europe has the largest potential to affect the surface aerosol concentrations in other continents due to its shorter distance from receptor continents and its larger fraction of sulfate-producing precursor gas in the outflow. With the IPCC emission scenario for the year 2000, we find that European emissions increase levels of ammonium sulfate by 1–5 μg m−3 over the surface of northern Africa and western Asia, and its contribution to eastern Asia (≥0.2 μg m−3) is twice as much as the Asian contribution to North America. Asia and North America pollution emissions exert strong impacts on their neighboring oceans, but their influences over other continents are relatively small (≤10%) due to long traveling distances across the oceans and efficient removal during transport. Among the major dust source regions, Asia displays a significant influence over large areas in the northern hemisphere except over the North Atlantic and the tropics, where African dust dominates. We also notice that the African dust and European pollution can travel eastward through a pathway spanning across Asia and North Pacific to western North America; such a pathway is difficult to detect because these aerosols usually merge and travel together with Asian dust and pollution labeled as "Asian outflow".