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Air Quality and Climate Change

Average number of days per year during the 1986 to 2005 period in which meteorological conditions were conducive to pollutant accumulation.

 

Daniel Horton investigates how global warming will influence the quality of the air we breath.

Air pollution is a leading cause of respiratory infections, heart disease, and lung cancer. The World Health Organization attributes 1.3 million deaths per year to poor air quality and suggests health risks can be significantly reduced with improved air quality. Attempts to regulate the emission of pollutants via Clean Air legislation have successfully improved air quality in some countries but issues remain, particularly in developing nations. The specter of global warming adds an additional layer of complexity to the issue, as changes in the circulation of the atmosphere may influence the meteorological conditions that help to regulate air quality.   

To determine how global warming may influence future air quality, Daniel researches the meteorological factors associated with past poor air quality and studies how those meteorological factors may change in a world warmed by greenhouse gases.

To date, his research suggests that if future Clean Air regulatory objectives are to be met, more stringent emission control measures may be required in order to offset the pollutant-accumulating effects of global warming on the meteorological factors that help to regulate air quality.

Publications

  • Horton, D.E.*, Harshvardhan and N.S. Diffenbaugh, Response of air stagnation frequency to anthropogenically enhanced radiative forcing, Environmental Research Letters, 7, 044034, doi:10.1088/1748-9326/7/4/044034, 2012.