Changes in tropospheric air quality related to the protection of stratospheric ozone in a changing climate

Publication Name

Photochemical and Photobiological Sciences


Ultraviolet (UV) radiation drives the net production of tropospheric ozone (O3) and a large fraction of particulate matter (PM) including sulfate, nitrate, and secondary organic aerosols. Ground-level O3 and PM are detrimental to human health, leading to several million premature deaths per year globally, and have adverse effects on plants and the yields of crops. The Montreal Protocol has prevented large increases in UV radiation that would have had major impacts on air quality. Future scenarios in which stratospheric O3 returns to 1980 values or even exceeds them (the so-called super-recovery) will tend to ameliorate urban ground-level O3 slightly but worsen it in rural areas. Furthermore, recovery of stratospheric O3 is expected to increase the amount of O3 transported into the troposphere by meteorological processes that are sensitive to climate change. UV radiation also generates hydroxyl radicals (OH) that control the amounts of many environmentally important chemicals in the atmosphere including some greenhouse gases, e.g., methane (CH4), and some short-lived ozone-depleting substances (ODSs). Recent modeling studies have shown that the increases in UV radiation associated with the depletion of stratospheric ozone over 1980–2020 have contributed a small increase (~ 3%) to the globally averaged concentrations of OH. Replacements for ODSs include chemicals that react with OH radicals, hence preventing the transport of these chemicals to the stratosphere. Some of these chemicals, e.g., hydrofluorocarbons that are currently being phased out, and hydrofluoroolefins now used increasingly, decompose into products whose fate in the environment warrants further investigation. One such product, trifluoroacetic acid (TFA), has no obvious pathway of degradation and might accumulate in some water bodies, but is unlikely to cause adverse effects out to 2100. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

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U.S. Department of Agriculture


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