Understanding the Meteorological Drivers of U.S. Particulate Matter Concentrations in a Changing Climate

John P. Dawson Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Arlington, Virginia

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Bryan J. Bloomer Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Arlington, Virginia

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Darrell A. Winner Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Arlington, Virginia

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Christopher P. Weaver Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Arlington, Virginia

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Particulate matter (PM) air pollution is a serious public health issue for the United States. While there is a growing body of evidence that climate change will partially counter the effectiveness of future precursor emission reductions to reduce ozone (O3) air pollution, the links between PM and climate change are more complex and less understood. This paper discusses what we currently understand about the potential sensitivity of PM episodes to climate-change-related shifts in air pollution meteorology, in the broader context of the emissions and atmospheric chemistry drivers of PM. For example, initial studies have focused largely on annual average concentrations of inorganic aerosol species. However, the potential for future changes in the occurrence of PM episodes, and their underlying meteorological drivers, are likely more important to understand and remain highly uncertain. In addition, a number of other poorly understood factors interact with these likely critical meteorological changes. These include changes in emissions from wildfires, as well as atmospheric processing of organic aerosol precursor chemicals. More work is needed to support the management of the health and environmental risks of climate-induced changes in PM. We suggest five priorities for the research community to address based on the current state of the literature.

CORRESPONDING AUTHOR: Christopher Weaver, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Mail Stop 8601-P, Washington, DC 20460, E-mail: weaver.chris@epa.gov

Particulate matter (PM) air pollution is a serious public health issue for the United States. While there is a growing body of evidence that climate change will partially counter the effectiveness of future precursor emission reductions to reduce ozone (O3) air pollution, the links between PM and climate change are more complex and less understood. This paper discusses what we currently understand about the potential sensitivity of PM episodes to climate-change-related shifts in air pollution meteorology, in the broader context of the emissions and atmospheric chemistry drivers of PM. For example, initial studies have focused largely on annual average concentrations of inorganic aerosol species. However, the potential for future changes in the occurrence of PM episodes, and their underlying meteorological drivers, are likely more important to understand and remain highly uncertain. In addition, a number of other poorly understood factors interact with these likely critical meteorological changes. These include changes in emissions from wildfires, as well as atmospheric processing of organic aerosol precursor chemicals. More work is needed to support the management of the health and environmental risks of climate-induced changes in PM. We suggest five priorities for the research community to address based on the current state of the literature.

CORRESPONDING AUTHOR: Christopher Weaver, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Mail Stop 8601-P, Washington, DC 20460, E-mail: weaver.chris@epa.gov
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