1Earth Sciences Department, Barcelona Supercomputing Center-Centro Nacional de Supercomputación, BSC-CNS, Barcelona, Spain
2NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Department of Applied Physics and Applied Math, Columbia University, New York, USA
3Physics of the Earth, Department of Physics, University of Murcia, Murcia, Spain
4Norwegian Meteorological Institute, Oslo, Norway
5Environmental Modelling Laboratory, Technical University of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain
Abstract. The CALIOPE air quality modelling system is developed and applied to Europe with high spatial resolution (12 km × 12 km). The modelled daily-to-seasonal aerosol variability over Europe in 2004 is evaluated and analysed. Aerosols are estimated from two models, CMAQv4.5 (AERO4) and BSC-DREAM8b. CMAQv4.5 calculates biogenic, anthropogenic and sea salt aerosol and BSC-DREAM8b provides the natural mineral dust contribution from North African deserts. For the evaluation, we use daily PM10, PM2.5 and aerosol components data from 55 stations of the EMEP/CREATE network and total, coarse and fine aerosol optical depth (AOD) data from 35 stations of the AERONET sun photometer network. Annual correlations between modelled and observed values for PM10 and PM2.5 are 0.55 and 0.47, respectively. Correlations for total, coarse and fine AOD are 0.51, 0.63, and 0.53, respectively. The higher correlations of the PM10 and the coarse mode AOD are largely due to the accurate representation of the African dust influence in the forecasting system. Overall PM and AOD levels are underestimated. The evaluation of the aerosol components highlights underestimations in the fine fraction of carbonaceous matter (EC and OC) and secondary inorganic aerosols (SIA; i.e. nitrate, sulphate and ammonium). The scores of the bulk parameters are significantly improved after applying a simple model bias correction based on the observed aerosol composition. The simulated PM10 and AOD present maximum values over the industrialized and populated Po Valley and Benelux regions. SIA are dominant in the fine fraction representing up to 80% of the aerosol budget in latitudes north of 40° N. In southern Europe, high PM10 and AOD are linked to the desert dust transport from the Sahara which contributes up to 40% of the aerosol budget. Maximum seasonal ground-level concentrations (PM10 > 30 μg m−3) are found between spring and early autumn. We estimate that desert dust causes daily exceedances of the PM10 European air quality limit value (50 μg m−3) in large areas south of 45° N with more than 75 exceedances per year in the southernmost regions.