Linking mid-latitude storms, atmospheric composition and climate variability
Knowland, Katherine Emma
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In this thesis, the role of mid-latitude cyclones in air pollution transport in the Northern Hemisphere is quantified. The storm tracking model, TRACK, is used to study the mechanisms through which pollution, specifically ozone (O3) and carbon monoxide (CO), are vented from the boundary layer to the free troposphere and thus transported over large distances, as well as the introduction of O3 from the stratosphere into the troposphere. The relationship between mid-latitude cyclones and air pollution transport of O3 and CO is explored for the first time using the Monitoring Atmospheric Composition and Climate (MACC) reanalysis, a combined meteorology and composition reanalysis dataset. A comparison between springtime surface ozone measurements at rural background sites on the west coast of Europe and cyclone track frequency in the surrounding regions was used to first establish the correlation between cyclone location and surface air quality. The focus is on spring as it tends to be the season of maximum intercontinental transport of O3. The surface observations were compared to the MACC O3 values at the same locations and case studies of how cyclones can influence surface O3 measurements are described. When cyclones track north of 53°N, there is a significant probability that the surface O3 will be high (> the 75th percentile), due to the close proximity to stratospheric intrusions and the transport at low levels across the North Atlantic Ocean. The most intense spring cyclones (95th percentile) were selected for two regions, the North Atlantic and the North Pacific, for further investigation into the mechanisms which impact O3 and CO concentrations near cyclones. These intense cyclones ( 60 over each region) often tracked over the major emission sources of eastern North America and East Asia. The distributions of MACC O3 and CO within a "typical" intense cyclone are examined by compositing the cyclones together. The cyclone-centered composites were compared to background composites of "average conditions" created by sampling the reanalysis data of the previous year to the cyclone locations. Mid-latitude cyclones are found to redistribute concentrations of O3 and CO horizontally and vertically throughout the cyclone. This is clearly shown to occur through two main mechanisms: (1) vertical lifting of CO-rich and O3-poor air isentropically from near the surface to the mid- to upper-troposphere in the region of the warm conveyor belt; and (2) descent of O3-rich and CO-poor air isentropically in the vicinity of the dry intrusion, from the stratosphere toward the mid-troposphere. This work was expanded to identify the links between teleconnection patterns, mainly the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), that affect the major storm track pathways in the North Atlantic sector and the distribution of MACC O3 and CO throughout the troposphere and lower stratosphere. For this analysis, TRACK was used to calculate seasonal weighted-average O3 and CO distribution maps based on the monthly NAO index. During positive NAO phase, the persistence of low pressures over the North Atlantic coupled with the Azores High promotes transport across the North Atlantic throughout the troposphere. During negative NAO phase, blocking high pressure in the eastern North Atlantic are known to occur, which shifts transport pathways to a more southerly zonal flow. This work demonstrates the complex relationship between the horizontal and vertical distribution of pollution, including surface concentrations, and synoptic-scale systems.