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The role of natural variability in projections of climate change impacts on U.S. ozone pollution

  • Author(s): Garcia-Menendez, F
  • Monier, E
  • Selin, NE
  • et al.
Abstract

©2017. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. Climate change can impact air quality by altering the atmospheric conditions that determine pollutant concentrations. Over large regions of the U.S., projected changes in climate are expected to favor formation of ground-level ozone and aggravate associated health effects. However, modeling studies exploring air quality-climate interactions have often overlooked the role of natural variability, a major source of uncertainty in projections. Here we use the largest ensemble simulation of climate-induced changes in air quality generated to date to assess its influence on estimates of climate change impacts on U.S. ozone. We find that natural variability can significantly alter the robustness of projections of the future climate's effect on ozone pollution. In this study, a 15 year simulation length minimum is required to identify a distinct anthropogenic-forced signal. Therefore, we suggest that studies assessing air quality impacts use multidecadal simulations or initial condition ensembles. With natural variability, impacts attributable to climate may be difficult to discern before midcentury or under stabilization scenarios.

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