1Earth Sciences Department, Barcelona Supercomputing Center-Centro Nacional de Supercomputación, BSC-CNS, Barcelona, Spain
2Environmental Modelling Laboratory, Technical University of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain
3Earth Institute at Columbia University, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and International Research Institute for Climate and Society, New York, USA
4Physics of the Earth, Department of Physics, University of Murcia, Spain
5Norwegian Meteorological Institute, Oslo, Norway
Abstract. The CALIOPE high-resolution air quality modelling system is developed and applied to Europe (12 km × 12 km, 1 h). The modelled daily to seasonal aerosol variability over Europe in 2004 have been evaluated and analysed. The 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 chemical composition data from 54 stations of the EMEP/CREATE network and coarse and fine aerosol optical depth (AOD) data from 35 stations of the AERONET sun photometer network. The model achieves daily PM10 and PM2.5 correlations of 0.57 and 0.47, respectively, and total, coarse and fine AOD correlations of 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 chemical composition highlights underestimations of the modelled fine fractions particularly for carbonaceous matter (EC and OC) and secondary inorganic aerosols (SIA; i.e. nitrates, sulphates and ammonium). The scores of the bulk parameters are significantly improved after applying a simple model bias correction based on the chemical composition observations. SIA are dominant in the fine fractions representing up to 80 % of the aerosol budget in latitudes beyond 40° N. The highest aerosol concentrations are found over the industrialized and populated areas of the Po Valley and the Benelux regions. High values in southern Europe are linked to the transport of coarse particles from the Sahara desert which contributes up to 40 % of the total aerosol mass. Close to the surface, maxima dust seasonal concentrations (>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 threshold (50 μg m–3) in large areas south of 45° N reaching up to more than 75 days per year in the southernmost regions.