Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, vol. 12, issue 14 (2012) pp. 6357-6376
Ozone pollution represents a serious health and environmental problem. While ozone pollution is mostly produced by photochemistry in summer, elevated ozone concentrations can also be influenced by long range transport driven by the atmospheric circulation and stratospheric ozone intrusions. We analyze the role of large scale atmospheric circulation variability in the North Atlantic basin in determining surface ozone concentrations over Europe. Here, we show, using ground station measurements and a coupled atmosphere-chemistry model simulation for the period 1980-2005, that the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) does affect surface ozone concentrations - on a monthly timescale, over 10 ppbv in southwestern, central and northern Europe - during all seasons except fall. The commonly used NAO index is able to capture the link existing between atmospheric dynamics and surface ozone concentrations in winter and spring but it fails in summer. We find that the first Principal Component, computed from the time variation of the sea level pressure (SLP) field, detects the atmosphere circulation/ozone relationship not only in winter and spring but also during summer, when the atmospheric circulation weakens and regional photochemical processes peak. Given the NAO forecasting skill at intraseasonal time scale, the first Principal Component of the SLP field could be used as an indicator to identify areas more exposed to forthcoming ozone pollution events. Finally, our results suggest that the increasing baseline ozone in western and northern Europe during the 1990s could be related to the prevailing positive phase of the NAO in that period.
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