Sensitivity of future ozone concentrations in the northeast USA to regional climate change

K. E. Kunkel, H. C. Huang, X. Z. Liang, J. T. Lin, D. Wuebbles, Z. Tao, A. Williams, M. Caughey, J. Zhu, K. Hayhoe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An air quality modeling system was used to simulate the effects on ozone concentration in the northeast USA from climate changes projected through the end of the twenty-first century by the National Center for Atmospheric Research's (NCAR's) parallel climate model, a fully coupled general circulation model, under a higher and a lower scenario of future global changes in concentrations of radiatively active constituents. The air quality calculations were done with both a global chemistry-transport model and a regional air quality model focused on the northeast USA. The air quality simulations assumed no changes in regional anthropogenic emissions of the chemical species primarily involved in the chemical reactions of ozone creation and destruction, but only accounted for changes in the climate. Together, these idealized global and regional model simulations provide insights into the contribution of possible future climate changes on ozone. Over the coming century, summer climate is projected to be warmer and less cloudy for the northeast USA. These changes are considerably larger under the higher scenario as compared with the lower. Higher temperatures also increase biogenic emissions. Both mean daily and 8-h maximum ozone increase from the combination of three factors that tend to favor higher concentrations: (1) higher temperatures change the rates of reactions and photolysis rates important to the ozone chemistry; (2) lower cloudiness (higher solar radiation) increases the photolysis reaction rates; and (3) higher biogenic emissions increase the concentration of reactive species. Regional model simulations with two cumulus parameterizations produce ozone concentration changes that differ by approximately 10%, indicating that there is considerable uncertainty in the magnitude of changes due to uncertainties in how physical processes should be parameterized in the models. However, the overall effect of the climate changes simulated by these models - in the absence of reductions in regional anthropogenic emissions - would be to increase ozone concentrations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)597-606
Number of pages10
JournalMitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Jun 2008


  • Air quality
  • Climate change
  • Northeast USA
  • Ozone
  • Regional

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology


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