Impact of the North Atlantic Oscillation on European aerosol ground levels through local processes: a seasonal model-based assessment using fixed anthropogenic emissions

S. Jerez, P. Jimenez-Guerrero, J. P. Montávez, R. M. Trigo
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 11195–11207. doi: 10.5194/acp-13-11195-2013

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The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) controls a large amount of the European climate variability with asymmetric impacts in both time and space. Here we investigate how the NAO impact on the local atmospheric processes (disregarding the NAO impact on the large intercontinental transport mechanisms) influences the levels of various aerosol species using simulated data under constant emissions, which are fixed to the 2005 levels in order to avoid anthropogenic-induced signals. In particular, we analyze interannual variations at the seasonal timescale and focus on the ground-level. The results show that positive NAO phases favor increased aerosol concentrations in southern (northern) regions during winter (summer), while negative NAO phases enhance them in northern (southern) regions during winter (summer). The underlying processes are clearly related to the NAO impact on precipitation and wind, as they act to clean the atmosphere through removal and dispersion processes, and to the NAO impact on the radiation balance (i.e., cloudiness) as it affects the biogenic emitting activity and on the oxidative capacity of the atmosphere. Differences for all the species studied (natural inert, secondary inorganic and organic aerosols) are up to 5 ?gm?3, reaching 10 and 20 ?gm?3 for PM10 and PM2.5 respectively, which represents variations of about 20–40% in their mean levels between opposite NAO phases.