The impact of future atmospheric circulation changes over the Euro-Atlantic sector on urban PM2.5 concentrations

Gabriele Messori*, Dave van Wees, Francesco S.R. Pausata, Juan C. Acosta Navarro, Abdel Hannachi, Frank J. Dentener

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Air quality management is strongly driven by legislative aspects related to the exceedance of air quality limit values. Here, we use the Norwegian Climate Centre’s Earth System Model to assess the impact of a future scenario of maximum feasible aerosol emission abatement and increasing greenhouse gases (RCP4.5) on urban PM2.5 concentrations in Europe. Daily PM2.5 concentrations are assessed using a novel downscaling method which allows us to compute exceedances of current and planned air quality thresholds. For the latter, we assume that future ambitious emission reductions are likely to be accompanied by stricter air quality thresholds. The changes in PM2.5 concentrations are discussed in the context of the large-scale atmospheric changes observed relative to the present-day climate. Our results show a more positive North Atlantic Oscillation mean state in the future, combined with a large eastward shift of both North Atlantic sea-level pressure centres of action. This is associated with more frequent mid-latitude blocking and a northward shift of the jet stream. These changes favour higher than expected anthropogenic urban PM2.5 concentrations in Southern Europe, while they have the opposite effect on the northern half of the continent. In the future scenario, PM concentrations in substantial parts of Southern Europe are found to exceed the World Health Organisation Air Quality Guideline daily limit of 25 μg/m3 on 25 to over 50 days per year, and annual guidelines of 10 µg/m3 on more than 80% of the 30 years analysed in our study. We conclude that alterations in atmospheric circulation in the future, induced by stringent maximum feasible air pollution mitigation as well as GHG emissions, will negatively influence the effectiveness of these emission abatements over large parts of Europe. This has important implications for future air quality policies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalTellus, Series B : Chemical and Physical Meteorology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • air quality
  • atmospheric circulation
  • maximum feasible reduction
  • particulate matter
  • urban pollution


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