From the News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton
From: Journal – Geophysical Research Letters – Released 3 September 2013 Wiley Research
Particle matter suspended in the atmosphere, such as soot and other pollutants, can pose health risks and now research into atmospheric shifts reveal how the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) will play a central role in distributing these particles across Europe.
“Inhalation of particle matter (PM) has been associated with diseases such as atherosclerosis, lung cancer, respiratory diseases, birth defects and premature death,” said Dr. Francesco S.R. Pausata from the European Commission Joint Research Centre.
“While it is regulated through European air quality standards, urban area concentration levels have not fallen as PM levels are influenced by meteorological conditions and their inter-annual variability.”
The NAO is a large-scale atmospheric pattern caused by swings in atmospheric pressure at sea level in the North Atlantic between the Arctic and the subtropical Atlantic. It controls the strength and direction of winds and storms across the North Atlantic. The variability of the NAO over the years may influence PM distribution, and blur the link between man-made emissions and PM atmospheric concentrations.
The winter NAO has shown an upward trend in the 1980s and 1990s, and climate models forecast this trend to continue in the coming decades. This is expected to have a significant impact on mortality rates: the forecast higher levels of PM in the Mediterranean region will lead to an increase in premature deaths unless compensated by emission reduction measures; while central, northern and eastern Europe are predicted to have lower levels of PM, with reductions in mortality rates.