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Air Quality Science Programme

unique research strengths in the experimental and modelling science of air quality

NCAS has unique research strengths in the experimental and modelling science needed to examine individual air quality processes and understand their effects and impacts. We operate laboratory facilities for simulating the atmosphere and develop international mechanism databases that describe how the atmosphere behaves. We undertake long-term observations of key air pollutants in the background and rural atmosphere and coordinate focused studies on how the atmosphere functions in particular environments or locations. Working with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology we determine fluxes and exchanges to and from the biosphere of relevance to atmospheric chemistry processes.

Determining fundamental physicochemical properties of the atmosphere

We will undertake where necessary new laboratory measurements of physical and chemical properties
Guided by analysis of predictive uncertainties we will undertake where necessary new laboratory measurements of physical and chemical properties and constants needed for atmospheric model parametrisation. We will undertake evaluation of international physicochemical data associated with gases and aerosols and provide expert recommendations for their usage. We will design a range of compact mechanisms and parametrisations tailored to particular modelling environments and computing resources, which are traceable to underlying basic properties and which have fully evaluated performances. 

Quantifying key atmospheric processes

Very large ensembles of reactions and interactions determine key atmospheric processes such as aerosol ageing, aerosol- cloud interaction and oxidative capacity, such that they are not always divisible for treatment in an explicit manner. In these areas we will quantify the strength, scale and impact of such processes through observations, determine how such processes are controlled by external factors and the extent to which they interact. We will coordinate major studies of such processes with national and international partners. 

Long term composition change: observations, modelling and attribution

We will determine decadal trends in key gases and aerosols in both remote and urbanised environments
Using datasets from NCAS and from others we will determine decadal trends in key gases and aerosols in both remote and urbanised environments and contributing, where appropriate, to international activities such as EMEP, WMO-GAW and UNFCCC. We will establish by combining models with data, the key sensitivities of the atmosphere to changing emissions and biogeochemical cycles and highlight feedbacks and impacts of composition change across a range of time and space scales. We will attribute trends in composition and their impacts over inter-annual time-scales to underlying processes and sources.

Model constraint, development and evaluation

We will coordinate the use of composition observations as means of initialising and constraining atmospheric models. We will use model and measurement comparison and evaluation to guide our development and improvement of predictive composition models across a range of scales, from the global and decadal, to short-term human exposure to air pollutants in an urban environment. We will evaluate our models against best in class and against data, and provide publicly available tools such as the Master Chemical Mechanism that may be used to inform nationally and internationally on the impacts of emission control policy and air quality management.

Prediction of emerging threats

We will continue to develop new capability to detect trace entities with potential impacts on human health.
We will continue to develop new capability to detect trace entities with potential impacts on human health. Using a combination of state of the art technology, long-term atmospheric surveillance and ongoing analysis of trends in emissions processes we will provide advice and early warning of emerging atmospheric threats. These may be in the form of unpredicted tipping points in atmospheric composition and climate, through to unpredictable by-products of emerging technologies or the evolution and transformation of deliberate releases to the atmosphere.