21 Jun 2023
 | 21 Jun 2023

Global impacts of aviation on air quality evaluated at high resolution

Sebastian D. Eastham, Guillaume P. Chossière, Raymond L. Speth, Daniel J. Jacob, and Steven R. H. Barrett

Abstract. Aviation emissions cause global changes in air quality which have been estimated to result in ~58,000 premature mortalities per year, but this number varies by an order of magnitude between studies. The causes of this uncertainty include differences in the assessment of ozone exposure impacts and in how air quality changes are simulated, and the possibility that low-resolution (~400 km) global models may overestimate impacts compared to finer-resolution (~50 km) regional models. We use the GEOS-Chem High Performance chemistry-transport model at a 50 km global resolution, an order of magnitude finer than recent assessments of the same scope, to quantify the air quality impacts of aviation with a single internally consistent, global approach. We find that aviation emissions in 2015 resulted in 21,200 premature mortalities due to particulate matter exposure and 53,100 due to ozone exposure. Compared to a prior estimate of 6,800 ozone-related premature mortalities for 2006 our estimate is increased by 5.6 times due to the use of updated epidemiological data which includes the effects of ozone exposure during winter, and by 1.3 times due to increased aviation fuel burn. The use of fine (50 km) resolution increases the estimated impacts on both ozone and particulate matter-related mortality by a further 20 % compared to coarse-resolution (400 km) global simulation, but an intermediate resolution (100 km) is sufficient to capture 98 % of impacts. This is in part due to the role of aviation-attributable ozone, which is long-lived enough to mix through the Northern Hemisphere and exposure to which causes 2.5 times as much health impact as aviation-attributable PM2.5. This work shows that the air quality impacts of civil aviation emissions are dominated by the hemisphere-scale response of tropospheric ozone to aviation NOx rather than local changes, and that simulations at ~100 km resolution provide similar results to those at two times finer spatial scale.

Sebastian D. Eastham et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-695', Anonymous Referee #4, 07 Jul 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-695', Anonymous Referee #1, 09 Jul 2023
  • RC3: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-695', Anonymous Referee #5, 31 Jul 2023
  • EC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-695', Xavier Querol, 04 Aug 2023

Sebastian D. Eastham et al.

Sebastian D. Eastham et al.


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Short summary
Emissions from aircraft are known to cause air quality impacts worldwide, but the scale and mechanisms of this impact are not well understood. This work use high-resolution computational modelling of the atmosphere to show that air pollution changes from aviation are mostly the result of emissions during cruise (high altitude) operations, that these impacts are related to how much non-aviation pollution is present, and that prior regional assessments have underestimated these impacts.