Vegetation Feedbacks during Drought Exacerbate Ozone Air Pollution Extremes in Europe

Monday, Apr 20, 2020

When high in the atmosphere, ozone protects Earth from harmful solar radiation — but ozone at ground level is a significant pollutant. Exposure to high concentrations of ground-level ozone aggravates respiratory illnesses, thus exacerbating the negative health effects of heat and contributing to the catastrophic impacts of recent heatwaves and drought in Europe.

In Europe, despite laws limiting pollution from cars, trucks and factories, there has been little improvement in ozone air quality. An international team led by AOS Research Scholar Meiyun Lin, a CIMES researcher, found the surprising chain of causes: As global climate change leads to more hot and dry weather, the resulting droughts are stressing plants, making them less able to remove ozone from the air. The new study was published today in Nature Climate Change.

Larry Horowitz (GFDL), Yuanyu Xie (AOS/CIMES), Fabien Paulot (GFDL, formerly AOS), Sergey Malyshev (GFDL/Visiting Research Collaborator, PEI), and Elena Shevliakova (GFDL/Visiting Research Collaborator, PEI) are among the study's co-authors.

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