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Air Quality and Climate Change Research

Air Quality and Climate Change

Climate change can impact air quality and, conversely, air quality can impact climate change. 

Changes in climate can result in impacts to local air quality. Atmospheric warming associated with climate change has the potential to increase ground-level ozone in many regions, which may present challenges for compliance with the ozone standards in the future. The impact of climate change on other air pollutants, such as particulate matter, is less certain, but research is underway to address these uncertainties.

Emissions of pollutants into the air can result in changes to the climate. Ozone in the atmosphere warms the climate, while different components of particulate matter (PM) can have either warming or cooling effects on the climate. For example, black carbon, a particulate pollutant from combustion, contributes to the warming of the Earth, while particulate sulfates cool the earth's atmosphere.

Researchers are working to:

  • Develop methods to apply possible global-scale changes in air temperature and precipitation patterns to local-scale conditions that affect air quality
  • Understand the influence of climate change on fine particulate matter and other air pollutions.
  • Identify co-benefits of reducing air pollutants that also reduce the impacts of climate change.
  • Understand how mitigation options to reduce carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, can affect emissions of particulate matter, ozone, precursors, and other air pollutants. 

The scientific knowledge and tools developed by EPA are enhancing the ability of state and local air quality managers to consider climate change in their decisions to protect air quality and to reduce the impacts of a changing climate.

Learn more about other Climate Change Research.

Related Topics

  • Air Research
  • National Climate Assessment - EPA participates in the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Sustained Assessment Working Group and contributes to the program's development of the National Climate Assessment. The fourth National Climate Assessment was published in November 2018 and includes a chapter on the impacts of climate change on air quality
  • GLIMPSE Model GLIMPSE is a decision support modeling tool being developed by EPA that will assist states with energy and environmental planning through the year 2050. Users of GLIMPSE can explore the impacts of energy technologies and policies on the environment.
  • Modeling the Interactive Effects from Nitrogen Deposition and Climate Change - EPA conducted several research efforts to better understand how nitrogen deposition and climate change can interactively affect ecosystems 
  • EPAUS9rT -- EPAUS9rT is a publicly available database that can be used with the TIMES modeling platform to evaluate the effects of alternative future technology scenarios on air pollutant and GHG emission levels. Users can identify cost-effective and environmentally friendly energy strategies for electric power generation, and for meeting the energy demands of industrial processes, the transportation system, and buildings.
  • Black Carbon Research - Black carbon is a sooty, black material formed from poor combustion and is part of particulate matter or PM, a harmful air pollutant. Black carbon also contributes to warming of the atmosphere and can affect rain and cloud patterns in regions with high black carbon emissions.
  • Clean Cookstove Research - The majority of cookstoves used in developing countries emit black carbon, an air pollutant that contributes to warming of the atmosphere.
  • Community Multi-scale Air Quality Model - CMAQ is EPA’s premier modeling system for studying air pollution from local to hemispheric scales. 

Publications in Science Inventory

Access EPA's science publications in the Science Inventory