1European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute of Environment and Sustainability, via E. Fermi, 2749, 21027 Ispra, Italy
2KNMI, Climate Observations Department, Wilhelminalaan 10, 3732 GK De Bilt, The Netherlands
3Eindhoven University of Techology, Bezoekadres, Den Dolech 2 5612 AZ Eindhoven, The Netherlands
4University of Crete, Department of Chemistry, 71003 Heraklion, Greece
Abstract. Ship emission estimates diverge widely for all chemical compounds for several reasons: use of different methodologies (bottom-up or top-down), activity data and emission factors can easily result in a difference from a factor of 1.5 to two orders of magnitude. Despite these large discrepancies in existing ship emission inventories for air pollutants very little has been done to evaluate their consistency with atmospheric measurements at open sea. Combining three sets of observational data – ozone and black carbon measurements sampled at three coastal sites and on board of a Mediterranean cruise ship, as well as satellite observations of atmospheric NO2 column concentration over the same area – we assess the accuracy of the three most commonly used ship emission inventories, EDGAR FT (Olivier et al., 2005), emissions described by Eyring et al. (2005) and emissions reported by EMEP (Vestreng et al., 2007). Our tool is a global atmospheric chemistry transport model which simulates the chemical state of the Mediterranean atmosphere applying different ship emission inventories. The simulated contributions of ships to air pollutant levels in the Mediterranean atmosphere are significant but strongly depend on the inventory applied. Close to the major shipping routes relative contributions vary from 10 to 50% for black carbon and from 2 to 12% for ozone in the surface layer, as well as from 5 to 20% for nitrogen dioxide atmospheric column burden. The relative contributions are still significant over the North African coast, but less so over the South European coast. The observations poorly constrain the ship emission inventories in the Eastern Mediterranean where the influence of uncertain land based emissions, the model transport and wet deposition are at least as important as the signal from ships. In the Western Mediterranean, the regional EMEP emission inventory gives the best match with most measurements, followed by Eyring for NO2 and ozone and by EDGAR for black carbon. Given the uncertainty of the measurements and the model, each of the three emission inventories could actually be right, implying that large uncertainties in ship emissions need to be considered for future scenario analysis.