1Centre for Atmospheric Science, University of Cambridge, UK
2Met Office, Exeter, UK
3Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, UK
*now at: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies & Columbia University, Center for Climate Systems Research, New York, USA
**now at: NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado, USA
Abstract. We have run a chemistry transport model (CTM) to systematically examine the drivers of interannual variability of tropospheric composition during 1996–2000. This period was characterised by anomalous meteorological conditions associated with the strong El Niño of 1997–1998 and intense wildfires, which produced a large amount of pollution. On a global scale, changing meteorology (winds, temperatures, humidity and clouds) is found to be the most important factor driving interannual variability of NO2 and ozone on the timescales considered. Changes in stratosphere-troposphere exchange, which are largely driven by meteorological variability, are found to play a particularly important role in driving ozone changes. The strong influence of emissions on NO2 and ozone interannual variability is largely confined to areas where intense biomass burning events occur. For CO, interannual variability is almost solely driven by emission changes, while for OH meteorology dominates, with the radiative influence of clouds being a very strong contributor. Through a simple attribution analysis for 1996–2000 we conclude that changing cloudiness drives 25% of the interannual variability of OH over Europe by affecting shortwave radiation. Over Indonesia this figure is as high as 71%. Changes in cloudiness contribute a small but non-negligible amount (up to 6%) to the interannual variability of ozone over Europe and Indonesia. This suggests that future assessments of trends in tropospheric oxidizing capacity should account for interannual variability in cloudiness, a factor neglected in many previous studies.