Tropospheric Chemistry Modelling at BIRA-IASB

Tropospheric chemistry studies at BIRA-IASB are concerned with the emissions, chemistry and role of chemical compounds involved in the global budget of oxidants (ozone, OH) and on the formation of organic aerosols in the troposphere.

Tropospheric ozone is an important greenhouse gas and a major pollutant causing respiratory deficiencies and decreased agricultural yields. Ozone photochemistry is closely related to the radicals HOx and NOx, as well to the cycle of reactive carbon in the troposphere. Ozone precursors include:

  • the nitrogen oxides (NOx),
  • carbon monoxide (CO) and
  • the volatile organic compounds (VOC).

Their emissions are partly natural (vegetation, lightning, etc.), partly anthropogenic (use of fossil fuels, industries, fertilizers, vegetation fires, etc.). Access to state-of-the-art emission inventories is provided at the GEIA/ACCENT emission portal.

The Biogenic Volatile Organic Compounds (BVOCs) are an important class of ozone precursors, with huge global emissions due to terrestrial vegetation (ca. 1150 Tg C per year). The BVOCs are a main focus of research at BIRA-IASB. Models are developed and used in order to estimate (1) their emissions, (2) their oxidation mechanism (in partnership with University of Leuven) (3) their potential for secondary aerosol formation, and finally (4) their impact on the composition of the global troposphere.

Inverse modeling of emissions of reactive gases is another important topic of research at BIRA-IASB. Satellite observations of e.g. NO2, CO, HCHO, glyoxal are used to put constraints on the emissions of important ozone precursors: NOx (=NO+NO2), CO, and the reactive VOCs.


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