Research Group Impact of Transport Emissions on Air Quality

Head: Dr. Mariano Mertens

The transport sector is an important anthropogenic emission sector. Transport emissions, together with other anthropogenic and natural emissions, affect not only the climate, but also the air quality and thus human health and vegetation. To improve air quality, it is therefore important to reduce anthropogenic emissions, e.g. in the course of the energy transition in transport sector.

Contribution of transport emissions to reactive nitrogen in June 2017. The research group will examine how contributions from transport emissions to air quality are changing with climate change and the energy transition in the transport sector.

In a changing climate, however, air pollution can additionally change through various feedback processes. Examples of such processes include changes in atmospheric circulation patterns, changes in precipitation, or increases in natural emissions due to increased air temperature. Human health, in addition, is also directly affected by climate change, for example, through an increase in heat waves. A simultaneous occurrence of high temperatures and large air pollution levels can have particularly strong impacts on human health. However, many aspects of the impact of air pollution on health and vegetation in a changing climate are not well understood. This makes it difficult to develop efficient mitigation strategies, e.g., for the transportation sector, and thus to reduce the impact of air pollution on human health and vegetation.

Within the framework of the BMBF-funded IMPAC²T Young Investigator’s Group, our understanding of the effects of air pollution on human health and vegetation in a changing climate will be investigated. For this purpose, DLR's expertise in numerical modeling of climate and air quality will be combined with the expertise in epidemiology of the Helmholtz Zentrum München in an interdisciplinary team. In addition, there is close cooperation with authorities.

Some scientific questions of the research group are:

  • How large is the contribution of transport emissions to air pollutants under current conditions? How large is this contribution compared to other emission sectors?
  • How does air quality, atmospheric temperature, and associated impacts on human health and vegetation change in a changing climate?
  • How do (a) changing dynamics, (b) changing natural emissions, and (c) changing anthropogenic emissions, particularly emission changes from the energy transition in the transport sector, contribute to changes in air quality?
  • What are possible mitigation options for the transport sector to reduce air pollution in a changing climate?

To answer these questions, we use our global-regional chemistry-climate model MECO(n) and, in perspective, ICON/MESSy. Observational data from ground-based, airborne and satellite instruments are used to evaluate the model simulations.