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A machine learning approach to downscale EMEP4UK: analysis of UK ozone variability and trends

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>13/03/2024
<mark>Journal</mark>Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number5
Number of pages34
Pages (from-to)3163-3196
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


High-resolution modelling of surface ozone is an essential step in the quantification of the impacts on health and ecosystems from historic and future concentrations. It also provides a principled way in which to extend analysis beyond measurement locations. Often, such modelling uses relatively coarse-resolution chemistry transport models (CTMs), which exhibit biases when compared to measurements. EMEP4UK is a CTM that is used extensively to inform UK air quality policy, including the effects on ozone from mitigation of its precursors. Our evaluation of EMEP4UK for the years 2001–2018 finds a high bias in reproducing daily maximum 8 h average ozone (MDA8), due in part to the coarse spatial resolution. We present a machine learning downscaling methodology to downscale EMEP4UK ozone output from a 5×5 km to 1×1 km resolution using a gradient-boosted tree. By addressing the high bias present in EMEP4UK, the downscaled surface better represents the measured data, with a 128 % improvement in R2 and 37 % reduction in RMSE. Our analysis of the downscaled surface shows a decreasing trend in annual and March–August mean MDA8 ozone for all regions of the UK between 2001–2018, differing from increasing measurement trends in some regions. We find the proportion of the UK which fails the government objective to have at most 10 exceedances of 100 µg m−3 per annum is 27 % (2014–2018 average), compared to 99 % from the unadjusted EMEP4UK model. A statistically significant trend in this proportion of −2.19 % yr−1 is found from the downscaled surface only, highlighting the importance of bias correction in the assessment of policy metrics. Finally, we use the downscaling approach to examine the sensitivity of UK surface ozone to reductions in UK terrestrial NOx (i.e. NO + NO2) emissions on a 1×1 km surface. Moderate NOx emission reductions with respect to present day (20 % or 40 %) increase both average and high-level ozone concentrations in large portions of the UK, whereas larger NOx reductions (80 %) cause a similarly widespread decrease in high-level ozone. In all three scenarios, very urban areas (i.e. major cities) are the most affected by increasing concentrations of ozone, emphasizing the broader air quality challenges of NOx control.