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Rapid increases in tropospheric ozone production and export from China

A Corrigendum to this article was published on 29 July 2016

This article has been updated


Rapid population growth and industrialization have driven substantial increases in Asian ozone precursor emissions over the past decade1, with highly uncertain impacts on regional and global tropospheric ozone levels. According to ozonesonde measurements2,3, tropospheric ozone concentrations at two Asian sites have increased by 1 to 3% per year since 2000, an increase thought to contribute to positive trends in the ozone levels observed at North America’s West Coast4,5. However, model estimates of the Asian contribution to North American ozone levels are not well-constrained by observations6,7. Here we interpret Aura satellite measurements of tropospheric concentrations of ozone and its precursor NO2, along with its largest natural source, stratospheric ozone, using the TM5 global chemistry–transport model. We show that tropospheric ozone concentrations over China have increased by about 7% between 2005 and 2010 in response to two factors: a rise in Chinese emissions by about 21% and increased downward transport of stratospheric ozone. Furthermore, we find that transport from China of ozone and its precursors has offset about 43% of the 0.42 DU reduction in free-tropospheric ozone over the western United States that was expected between 2005 and 2010 as a result of emissions reductions associated with federal, state and local air quality policies. We conclude that global efforts may be required to address regional air quality and climate change.

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Figure 1: Summertime tropospheric O3 and NO2 distributions for 2005–2006 and 2009–2010 observed by TES and OMI.
Figure 2: 2005–2010 observed and simulated changes in monthly tropospheric partial O3 columns over eastern China and the western US.
Figure 3: The effect of Chinese emissions and long-range transport on tropospheric O3 over the western US.

Change history

  • 23 June 2016

    In the version of the Letter originally published, in the last sentence of the Fig. 1 caption, the coordinates given for the dashed boxes in Fig. 1 and Fig. 3 were incorrect. The coordinates for eastern China should have been '108°–123° E, 20°–44° N' and not '105°–129° E, 18°–42° N', and the coordinates for western US should have been '130°–105° W, 30°–50° N' and not '130°–105° W, 20°–50° N'. This has been corrected in the online versions of the Letter.


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This research was funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, NWO Vidi grant 864.09.001. We acknowledge the free use of tropospheric NO2 columns from the OMI sensor from Part of this research was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. A grant from NASA ROSES NNH10ZDA001N-AURA and from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme under grant agreement no 607405 (QA4ECV) supported part of this research.

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Authors and Affiliations



W.W.V. performed the research, drafted the manuscript, prepared the figures and developed the analysis methods. J.L.N. provided analysis and interpretation of the MLS O3 measurements and aided in drafting the manuscript. J.E.W. contributed to the development of TM5 and the nested anthropogenic emission estimates, and supported the data interpretation. K.W.B. and J.R.W. provided analysis tools and interpretation. K.W.B., J.L.N. and J.R.W. are responsible for the TES experiment and instrument and project planning. K.F.B. is responsible for the Dutch OMI NO2 data product, aided in drafting the manuscript and methods, and supported the development of the analysis methods and interpretation. All authors contributed to discussions of the results and preparation of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Willem W. Verstraeten.

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Verstraeten, W., Neu, J., Williams, J. et al. Rapid increases in tropospheric ozone production and export from China. Nature Geosci 8, 690–695 (2015).

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