Aviation emissions are unique from other transportation emissions, e.g., from road transportation and shipping, in that they occur at higher altitudes as well as at the surface. Aviation emissions of carbon dioxide, soot, and water vapor have direct radiative impacts on the Earth's climate system while emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide (CO), and hydrocarbons (HC) impact air quality and climate through their effects on ozone, methane, and clouds. The most accurate estimates of the impact of aviation on air quality and climate utilize three-dimensional chemistry-climate models and gridded four dimensional (space and time) aviation emissions datasets. We compare five available aviation emissions datasets currently and historically used to evaluate the impact of aviation on climate and air quality: NASA-Boeing 1992, NASA-Boeing 1999, QUANTIFY 2000, Aero2k 2002, and AEDT 2006 and aviation fuel usage estimates from the International Energy Agency. Roughly 90% of all aviation emissions are in the Northern Hemisphere and nearly 60% of all fuelburn and NOx emissions occur at cruise altitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. While these datasets were created by independent methods and are thus not strictly suitable for analyzing trends they suggest that commercial aviation fuelburn and NOx emissions increased over the last two decades while HC emissions likely decreased and CO emissions did not change significantly. The bottom-up estimates compared here are consistently lower than International Energy Agency fuelburn statistics although the gap is significantly smaller in the more recent datasets. Overall the emissions distributions are quite similar for fuelburn and NOx with regional peaks over the populated land masses of North America, Europe, and East Asia. For CO and HC there are relatively larger differences. There are however some distinct differences in the altitude distribution of emissions in certain regions for the Aero2k dataset.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Atmospheric Science