Stagnant atmospheric conditions can lead to hazardous air quality by allowing ozone and particulate matter to accumulate and persist in the near-surface environment. By changing atmospheric circulation and precipitation patterns, global warming could alter the meteorological factors that regulate air stagnation frequency. We analyze the response of the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) air stagnation index (ASI) to anthropogenically enhanced radiative forcing using global climate model projections of late-21st century climate change (SRESA1B scenario). Our results indicate that the atmospheric conditions over the highly populated, highly industrialized regions of the eastern United States, Mediterranean Europe, and eastern China are particularly sensitive to global warming, with the occurrence of stagnant conditions projected to increase by 12-25% relative to late-20th century stagnation frequencies (3-18 + days yr-1). Changes in the position/strength of the polar jet, in the occurrence of light surface winds, and in the number of precipitation-free days all contribute to more frequent late-21st century air mass stagnation over these high-population regions. In addition, we find substantial inter-model spread in the simulated response of stagnation conditions over some regions using either native or bias corrected global climate model simulations, suggesting that changes in the atmospheric circulation and/or the distribution of precipitation represent important sources of uncertainty in the response of air quality to global warming.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
- Environmental Science(all)
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health