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Tropospheric Chemistry and Aerosols

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Tropospheric chemistry plays a critical role in perturbing the climate by controlling the abundance and distribution of a number of short-lived air pollutants, including methane, tropospheric ozone, and aerosols. The spatial and temporal distribution of these air pollutants, relevant for surface air quality, depends on direct emissions from natural sources and anthropogenic activities, chemical processes, atmospheric long-range transport, and climate variables such as temperature and humidity.

The presence of short-lived air pollutants in the troposphere, in turn, strongly perturbs climate by affecting the radiative balance of the Earth. A better understanding of the interactions between tropospheric chemical constituents and climate is, therefore, essential to fulfill NOAA’s mission of understanding and predicting changes in climate.

GFDL Research

At GFDL, scientists develop and apply global chemistry-climate models, such as CM3, to understand interactions between short-lived pollutants, air quality, and climate. These models range from simple chemical transport models to complex global coupled general circulation model for the atmosphere, oceans, land, and sea ice with explicit representations of tropospheric and stratospheric chemical processes, and aerosol-cloud interactions. The models are tested against a suite of atmospheric observations (e.g., aircraft campaign measurements, surface observation networks, satellite retrievals) to improve them and build confidence in their utility for addressing air quality and climate issues on time-scales from months to multiple decades on local to global spatial scales.

Research is focused on the synergistic use of observational data sets and models to gain a better understanding of the role of tropospheric chemistry and transport of air pollutants in the climate system, as well as skillful prediction of the impact of future changes in air pollution on climate and the impact of climate variability and change on air quality and long-range transport of pollutants. GFDL scientists collaborate with scientists at other laboratories and universities to obtain expertise and observational data sets necessary for developing robust models in support of NOAA’s mission. GFDL also participates in international community efforts (e.q. ACCMIP, AEROCOM, CCMI) that apply model simulations to advance our understanding of the role of tropospheric ozone and aerosols in the climate system.

A schematic of the global chemistry-climate model GFDL-CM3

Related Links

Featured Results


  1. Westervelt, D M., Larry W Horowitz, Vaishali Naik, and D L Mauzerall, November 2015: Radiative forcing and climate response to projected 21st century aerosol decreases. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 15(22), doi:10.5194/acp-15-12681-2015.
  2. Schnell, J L., M J Prather, B Josse, Vaishali Naik, and Larry W Horowitz, et al., September 2015: Use of North American and European air quality networks to evaluate global chemistry climate modeling of surface ozone. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 15(18), doi:10.5194/acp-15-10581-2015.
  3. Fiore, Arlene M., Vaishali Naik, and E M Leibensperger, June 2015: Air Quality and Climate Connections. Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association, 65(6), doi:10.1080/10962247.2015.1040526.
  4. Emmons, L K., S R Arnold, S A Monks, V Huijnen, S Tilmes, K Law, J L Thomas, J-C Raut, I Bouarar, S Turquety, Y Long, B N Duncan, S Steenrod, S Strode, J Flemming, and Jingqiu Mao, et al., June 2015: The POLARCAT Model Intercomparison Project (POLMIP): overview and evaluation with observations. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 15(12), doi:10.5194/acp-15-6721-2015.
  5. Lin, Meiyun, Arlene M Fiore, Larry W Horowitz, A Langford, S J Oltmans, D W Tarasick, and H E Rieder, May 2015: Climate variability modulates western US ozone air quality in spring via deep stratospheric intrusions. Nature Communications, 6, 7105, doi:10.1038/ncomms8105.
  6. Monks, S A., S R Arnold, L K Emmons, K Law, S Turquety, B N Duncan, J Flemming, V Huijnen, S Tilmes, J Langner, and Jingqiu Mao, et al., March 2015: Multi-model study of chemical and physical controls on transport of anthropogenic and biomass burning pollution to the Arctic.Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 15(6), doi:10.5194/acp-15-3575-2015.
  7. Rieder, H E., Arlene M Fiore, Larry W Horowitz, and Vaishali Naik, January 2015: Projecting policy-relevant metrics for high summertime ozone pollution events over the eastern United States due to climate and emission changes during the 21st century. Journal of Geophysical Research, 120(2), doi:10.1002/2014JD022303.
  8. Li, X, Junfeng Liu, D L Mauzerall, L K Emmons, S Walters, Larry W Horowitz, and X Tao, November 2014: Effects of trans-Eurasian transport of air pollutants on surface ozone concentrations over Western China. Journal of Geophysical Research, 119(21), doi:10.1002/2014JD021936.
  9. Fiore, Arlene M., J T Oberman, Meiyun Lin, L Zhang, O E Clifton, D J Jacob, Vaishali Naik, Larry W Horowitz, J P Pinto, and G P Milly, October 2014:Estimating North American background ozone in U.S. surface air with two independent global models: Variability, uncertainties, and recommendations. Atmospheric Environment, doi:10.1016/j.atmosenv.2014.07.045.
  10. Clifton, O E., Arlene M Fiore, G Correa, Larry W Horowitz, and Vaishali Naik, October 2014: 21st Century Reversal of the Surface Ozone Seasonal Cycle over the Northeastern United States. Geophysical Research Letters, 41(20), doi:10.1002/2014GL061378.
  11. Duncan, B N., Arlene M Fiore, and Meiyun Lin, et al., September 2014: Satellite data of atmospheric pollution for U.S. air quality applications: Examples of applications, summary of data end-user resources, answers to FAQs, and common mistakes to avoid. Atmospheric Environment, 94, doi:10.1016/j.atmosenv.2014.05.061.
  12. Rotstayn, L D., E L Plymin, M A Collier, O Boucher, J-L Dufresne, J-J Luo, K von Salzen, S J Jeffrey, M-A Foujols, Yi Ming, and Larry W Horowitz, September 2014: Declining aerosols in CMIP5 projections: effects on atmospheric temperature structure and midlatitude jets. Journal of Climate, 27(18), doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00258.1.
  13. Shen, Z, J Liu, Larry W Horowitz, C Henze, Song-Miao Fan, and Hiram Levy II, et al., June 2014: Analysis of transpacific transport of black carbon during HIPPO-3: implications for black carbon aging. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 14(12), doi:10.5194/acp-14-6315-2014.
  14. Parrish, D D., J F Lamarque, Vaishali Naik, and Larry W Horowitz, et al., May 2014: Long-term changes in lower tropospheric baseline ozone concentrations: Comparing chemistry-climate models and observations at northern mid-latitudes. Journal of Geophysical Research,119(9), doi:10.1002/2013JD021435.
  15. Fischer, E V., D J Jacob, R M Yantosca, D B Millet, and Jingqiu Mao, et al., March 2014: Atmospheric peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN): a global budget and source attribution. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 14(5), doi:10.5194/acp-14-2679-2014.
  16. Lin, Meiyun, Larry W Horowitz, S J Oltmans, Arlene M Fiore, and Song-Miao Fan, February 2014: Tropospheric ozone trends at Mauna Loa Observatory tied to decadal climate variability. Nature Geoscience, 7(2), doi:10.1038/ngeo2066.
  17. Bollasina, Massimo, Yi Ming, V Ramaswamy, M Daniel Schwarzkopf, and Vaishali Naik, January 2014: Contribution of Local and Remote Anthropogenic Aerosols to the 20th century Weakening of the South Asian Monsoon. Geophysical Research Letters, 41(2), doi:10.1002/2013GL058183.

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