Exposure to unhealthy air causes millions of premature deaths and damages crops sufficient to feed a large portion of the South Asian population every year. However, little is known about how future air quality in South Asia will respond to changing human activities. Here we examine the combined effect of changes in climate and air pollutant emissions projected by the Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) 8.5 and RCP6.0 on air quality of South Asia in 2050 using a state‐of‐the‐science Nested Regional Climate model with Chemistry (NRCM‐Chem). RCP8.5 and RCP6.0 are selected to represent scenarios of highest and lowest air pollution in South Asia by 2050. NRCM‐Chem shows the ability to capture observed key features of variability in meteorological parameters, ozone and related gases, and aerosols. NRCM‐Chem results show that surface ozone and particulate matter of less than 2.5 μm in diameter will increase significantly by midcentury in South Asia under the RCP8.5 but remain similar to present day under RCP6.0. No RCP suggest an improvement in air pollution in South Asia by midcentury. Under RCP8.5, the frequency of air pollution events is predicted to increase by 20–120 days per year in 2050 compared to the present‐day conditions, with particulate matter of less than 2.5 μm in diameter predicted to breach the World Health Organization ambient air quality guidelines on an almost daily basis in many parts of South Asia. These results indicate that while the RCP scenarios project a global improvement in air quality, they generally result in degrading air quality in South Asia.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres – Wiley
Published: Jan 16, 2018
Keywords: ; ; ; ;
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