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The Response of Surface Ozone to Climate Change over the Eastern United States

Pavan Nandan Racherla
Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

Peter J. Adams
Department of Engineering and Public Policy
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA


We examined the response of surface ozone to future climate change over the eastern United States by performing simulations corresponding to present (1990s) and future (2050s) climates using an integrated model of global climate, tropospheric gas-phase chemistry, and aerosols. A future climate has been imposed using ocean boundary conditions corresponding to the IPCC SRES A2 scenario for the 2050s decade, resulting in an increase in the global annual-average surface air temperature by 1.7°C, with a 1.4°C increase over the surface layer of the eastern United States. Present-day anthropogenic emissions and CO2/CH4 mixing ratios have been used in both simulations while climate-sensitive natural emissions were allowed to vary with the simulated climate. There is practically zero change in the spatiotemporally averaged ozone mixing ratios predicted over the eastern United States. However, the severity and frequency of ozone episodes over the eastern United States increased due to future climate change, primarily as a result of increased ozone chemical production due to increased natural isoprene emissions. The 95th percentile ozone mixing ratio increased by 5 ppbv and the largest frequency increase occurred in the 80-90 ppbv range. The most substantial and statistically significant (p-value < 0.05) increases in episode frequency occurred over the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic United States, largely as a result of 20% higher annual-average natural isoprene emissions. Increased chemical production and shorter average lifetime are consistent features of the predicted seasonal surface ozone response, with the former’s magnitude for a location largely a function of increased natural isoprene emissions, and the latter largely due to faster dry deposition removal rates. Future climate change is also predicted to lengthen the ozone season over the eastern United States to include late spring and early fall. Significant interannual variability is observed in the frequency of ozone episodes and we find that it is necessary to utilize 5 years or more of simulation data in order to separate the effects of interannual variability and climate change on ozone episodes.