Climate and air pollution are intricately linked: air pollution impacts our climate by changing the radiation balance through the occurrence of gases and particles that either enhance or impede radiation; and the climate system impacts air pollution levels through changes in e.g. wind and precipitation conditions as well as through changes in temperatures. Traditionally, however, climate models do not contain a detailed description of air pollution. At the Department of Environmental Science (ENVS), we work on combining our air pollution models with NASA’s climate model, GISS, to improve the scientific understanding of the climate change and air pollution interactions. 

The Arctic is a particularly sensitive system where climate impacts play a far greater role than on average for the globe. A global average temperature increase of 2 oC may mean a 12 oC increase in the Arctic. In addition, contaminants such as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), heavy metals like Hg and particles such as black carbon accumulate in the Arctic with negative consequences on climate, ecosystems and humans. For this reason, we have a particular focus on the Arctic area

The research challenges in this area include:

  • Improving the scientific understanding of the drivers of the climate system and how the climate system interacts with changes in ecosystems;
  • Understanding the sensitivity of the climate system as a deterministic chaotic system in order to predict future tipping points;
  • A better fundamental understanding of air pollution and climate change interactions with focus on short lived climate forcers (SLCF) such as e.g. black carbon, ozone and methane. Mitigation strategies are more effective in the short term;Impacts of climate change in the Arctic area, including changes in atmospheric transport pathways to the Arctic of contaminants and heavy metals as well as impacts on sensitive ecosystems in the Arctic and on original people living off arctic food.
  • A better understanding of how vegetation reacts in a changing climate: rising temperatures lead to increased emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from vegetation. The VOCs also contribute to the creation of ozone and particles, which have severe health hazards on humans.
  • The climate penalty: Understanding how climate change impacts on future air pollution levels and the consequences on human health and EU’s air pollution policies;

Within the SGA Climate, researchers from the sections of Emission Modelling and Environmental Geography, Atmospheric Modelling and Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics work together with policy analysists, economists and biologists to advance our understanding of climate impacts. SGA Climate is closely linked to SGA Sustainable Energy & Environment, SGA Arctic and SGA Atmospheric Pollution and impacts on human health.