1Natural Environment Research Council, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Penicuik, UK
2School of GeoSciences, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
3School of Chemistry, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
Abstract. Surface concentrations of secondary inorganic particle components over the UK have been analysed for 2001–2010 using the EMEP4UK regional atmospheric chemistry transport model. In early 2003 an episode of substantially elevated surface concentrations of ammonium nitrate was measured across the UK by the AGANET network. The EMEP4UK model was able accurately to represent both the long-term decadal surface concentrations and the episode in 2003. The latter was identified as consisting of three separate episodes, each of less than 1 month duration, in February, March and April. The primary cause of the elevated nitrate levels across the UK was meteorological, a persistent high pressure system, but whose varying location impacted the relative importance of transboundary vs. domestic emissions. Whilst long-range transport dominated the elevated nitrate in February, in contrast it was domestic emissions that mainly contributed to the March episode, and for the April episode both domestic emissions and long-range transport contributed. A prolonged episode such as the one in early 2003 can have substantial impact on annual average concentrations. The episode led to annual concentration differences at the regional scale of similar magnitude to those driven by long-term changes in precursor emissions over the full decade investigated here. The results demonstrate that a substantial part of the UK, particularly the south and south-east, may be close to or actually exceeding annual mean limit values because of import of inorganic aerosol components from continental Europe under specific conditions. The results reinforce the importance of employing multiple year simulations in the assessment of emissions reduction scenarios on PM concentrations and the need for international agreements to address the transboundary component of air pollution.