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Models with bad air days: Air Pollution’s Role in Climate Change

Wednesday, October 8, 2014 @ 18:30 - 20:00

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Evening Talk from Professor David Stevenson, Edinburgh University School of Geosciences

Professor Stevenson will describe how air pollution affects climate and how we can use models to understand the processes. His talk will be followed by an informal question and answer sessions with drinks and nibbles in the friendly setting of Penicuik’s West St Arts Centre (www.penicuikarts.org). All ages are welcome. No entry fee although donations to the PCAA will be welcome.
The event is arranged and sponsored by the Penicuik Community Arts Association, The Environmental Physics Group of the Institute of Physics (env.iop.organd the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (www.ceh.ac.uk , Bush Estate, Penicuik)
Earth’s surface has warmed, on average, about 0.8°C since the Industrial Revolution; much of this in the last half century. Changes in Earth’s climate are driven by changes in the planetary energy budget. Imbalance in the energy budget leads to surface temperature adjustments over time as the climate system tries to restore equilibrium.

For example, increases in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere reduce the flux of outgoing terrestrial radiation – to re-balance the energy budget, surface temperatures slowly warm to increase the flux. Climate change science is all about quantifying: (i) the imbalance of the energy budget (radiative forcing); and (ii) the magnitude and rate of the temperature (and more generally, climate) response to an imposed energy imbalance (climate sensitivity). The major driver of recent climate change has been changes in atmospheric composition: in particular increases of the greenhouse gas CO2, mainly via fossil fuel combustion. Human activity has resulted in changes in several other atmospheric species – many of them air pollutants – which have also made significant contributions to climate change (including some that have tended to cool climate). Almost all of these air pollutants are much shorter-lived in the atmosphere than CO2 – this means they respond comparatively quickly to changes in their sources (or sinks). Consequently, they might offer a relatively ‘quick fix’, at least partially, to the problem of climate change. There are also multiple environmental co-benefits that accrue from reducing air pollution. The effects of air pollution on climate are relatively poorly understood (e.g., compared to CO2), and this translates into uncertainties in projections of future change. Much of our knowledge about how air pollutants affect climate comes from models. Models (inevitably) represent Earth’s atmosphere incompletely, but nevertheless offer important insights into the processes that control air quality. Moreover, some of our understanding of air pollution is impossible to directly measure and it can only be derived from exploring model behaviour. I will show how we can use models to better constrain air pollution’s role in climate change.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014
18:30 - 20:00
Event Category:


West St Arts Centre
4 West Street
Penicuik, Midlothian EH26 9DL United Kingdom
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