Air pollution by ozone
- Climate variability and change has contributed to an increase in average ozone concentrations in central and South-Western Europe (1-2 % per decade).
- During the summer of 2003, exceptionally long-lasting and spatially extensive episodes of high ozone concentrations occurred, mainly in the first half of August. These episodes appear to have been associated with the extraordinarily high temperatures over wide areas of Europe and illustrate the expected more frequent exceedances of the ozone information threshold under projected climate change.
- The projected climate-induced increase in ozone levels may result in current ozone abatement policies becoming inadequate.
Modelled change in tropospheric ozone concentrations over Europe
Note: The modelled changes shown are only due to climate variability and climate change
- Interannual variationand trends in air pollution over Europe due to Climate variability during 1958-2001 simulated with a regional CTM coupled to the ERA40 reanalysis provided by Swedish meteorological and hydrologiska insitute (SMHI)
Change in number of ozone exceedance days between 1993-1996 and 2000-2004
Note: The map shows the change in the average number of ozone exceedence days from April to September observed at regional background stations (EMEP monitoring stations) from the period 1990-1994 to the period 1999-2004, excluding the abnormally warm summer of 2003. A day is counted as an exceedence day when the daily maximal 8-hr-average ozone concentration exceeds 60 ppbV.
Van Dingenen, R.; Raes, F.; Dentener, F.; Putaud, J. P. and Micale, F., 2008. The relation between temperature anomaly and ozone exceedance as an indication for the role of climate change on ozone exceedance in Europe (manuscript in preparation).
A modelling study from 1958 to 2001 (Andersson et al., 2007) shows that climate variability and change contributed to increased ozone concentrations during the period 1979-2001 over south-central and south-western Europe, and a decrease in north-eastern Europe (Figure 1). The reason for this is a combination of changes in temperature, wind patterns, cloud cover and stability. Further, temperature plays a role in various processes which directly affect the formation of ozone, like the emission of biogenic organic compounds (e.g. isoprene), and the photo-dissociation of NO2.
A link between temperature and ozone concentration is also evident from observations. A statistical analysis of ozone and temperature measurements in Europe for 1993-2004 shows that in central-western Europe and the Mediterranean area, a change the increase in the daily maximum temperature in 2000-2004 compared with 1993-1996 contributed to extra ozone exceedences (Figures 2 and 3). In south and central Europe, the temperature trend was responsible for an average of 8 extra annual exceedence days of 120 micrograms/m3, i.e. 17 % of the total number of exceedences observed in that region. An analysis of trends over the past twelve years indicates that in the EU the average number of hours when ozone concentration exceeded the information threshold of 180 micrograms/m3 was higher in summer 2003 than in all previous years (Fiala et al., 2003).
The projected trends for ozone and other air pollutants are closely linked to projections for radiation, temperature, cloudiness, and precipitation. On a global scale, the effect of climate change alone on tropospheric ozone concentrations is expected to be small, because of a reduction in ozone lifetime as a consequence of higher humidity (Stevenson et al., 2006). However, regional differences can be large. Regions where climate change is expected to result in an increased frequency of stable anticyclonic conditions with associated high temperatures, large solar inputs and little boundary layer ventilation may experience a deterioration of air quality (Hogrefe et al., 2004; Sousounis et al., 2002). A 30-year model study for the period 2071-2100, based on the IPCC A2 and B2 scenarios for CO2 emissions (but with otherwise constant emissions of pollutants) shows that daily peak ozone amounts as well as average ozone concentrations will increase substantially during the summer in future climate conditions (Meleux et al., 2007), in particular in central and western Europe, in line with observed trends from the past. The study also finds that summer ozone levels in future climate conditions are similar to those found during the exceptionally hot summer of 2003. The expected impact on human health may be exacerbated by the aging of the population, the elderly being more susceptible to air pollution than the average population (OECD, 2008).
Indicator specification and metadata
- Modelled change in tropospheric ozone concentrations over Europe 1958-2001 and 1978-2001
- Change in number of ozone exceedance days between 1993-1996 and 2000-2004
- Contribution of temperature increase to the change in ozone exceedance days between 1993-1996 and 2000-2004
Policy context and targets
In April 2009 the European Commission presented a White Paper on the framework for adaptation policies and measures to reduce the European Union's vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. The aim is to increase the resilience to climate change of health, property and the productive functions of land, inter alia by improving the management of water resources and ecosystems. More knowledge is needed on climate impact and vulnerability but a considerable amount of information and research already exists which can be shared better through a proposed Clearing House Mechanism. The White Paper stresses the need to mainstream adaptation into existing and new EU policies. A number of Member States have already taken action and several have prepared national adaptation plans. The EU is also developing actions to enhance and finance adaptation in developing countries as part of a new post-2012 global climate agreement expected in Copenhagen (Dec. 2009). For more information see: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/climat/adaptation/index_en.htm
No targets have been specified
Related policy documents
No related policy documents have been specified
Methodology for indicator calculation
Methodology for gap filling
No methodology references available.
Data sets uncertainty
No uncertainty has been specified
AirBase - The European air quality database
provided by European Environment Agency (EEA)
Changes in number of ozone exceedance days
provided by United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)
Climate change (Primary topic)
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
- CLIM 006
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoJohn Van Aardenne
EEA Management Plan2008 2.3.1 (note: EEA internal system)
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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