Letter

Nature 437, 129-132 (1 September 2005) | doi:10.1038/nature04092; Received 10 January 2005; Accepted 1 August 2005

Increase in tropospheric nitrogen dioxide over China observed from space

Andreas Richter1, John P. Burrows1, Hendrik Nüs zlig1, Claire Granier2,3,4 & Ulrike Niemeier2

  1. Institute of Environmental Physics, University of Bremen, Otto-Hahn-Allee 1, D-28359 Bremen, Germany
  2. Max-Planck Institute for Meteorology, Bundesstras zlige 53, D-20146 Hamburg, Germany
  3. Service d'Aeronomie/IPSL, University of Paris 6, Paris 75005, France
  4. CIRES/NOAA Aeronomy Laboratory, 325 Broadway, Boulder, Colorado 80305, USA

Correspondence to: Andreas Richter1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to A.R. (Email: richter@iup.physik.uni-bremen.de).

Emissions from fossil fuel combustion and biomass burning reduce local air quality and affect global tropospheric chemistry. Nitrogen oxides are emitted by all combustion processes and play a key part in the photochemically induced catalytic production of ozone, which results in summer smog and has increased levels of tropospheric ozone globally1. Release of nitrogen oxide also results in nitric acid deposition, and—at least locally—increases radiative forcing effects due to the absorption of downward propagating visible light2. Nitrogen oxide concentrations in many industrialized countries are expected to decrease3, but rapid economic development has the potential to increase significantly the emissions of nitrogen oxides4, 5, 6, 7 in parts of Asia. Here we present the tropospheric column amounts of nitrogen dioxide retrieved from two satellite instruments GOME8, 9 and SCIAMACHY10 over the years 1996–2004. We find substantial reductions in nitrogen dioxide concentrations over some areas of Europe and the USA, but a highly significant increase of about 50 per cent—with an accelerating trend in annual growth rate—over the industrial areas of China, more than recent bottom-up inventories suggest6.

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