Air pollution, human health, & vegetation in a changing climate

Cyclists on main road (Credit: 995645 on pixabay)

IMPAC2T is a Young Investigator’s Group funded by the FONA intiative of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research [extern] (BMBF) in Germany. It is a joined project between DLR and Helmholtz Munich [extern] in close collaboration with local authorities and further associated partners. In IMPAC²T, our overarching mission is to deliver a profound scientific understanding of the trends and drivers of ambient air pollution and its impacts on human health and vegetation in a changing climate. This understanding will enable policy makers to discuss potential mitigation options for air pollution in a changing climate. Moreover, we will scientifically investigate specific mitigation options.

To tackle this challenge holistically, an interdisciplinary team will collaborate across the duration of the project and join their expert knowledge regarding chemistry climate interactions and epidemiology.

A key research focus of IMPAC²T are emissions from the transport sector (cars, trucks, ships, etc.), which affect air pollution, and thus human health and vegetation, as well as the climate.

Technological advancements and the energy transition in the transport sector (e.g. electrification) are likely reduce anthropogenic emissions in the future, but on the other hand the effects of climate change (higher air temperature, changing wind and precipitation patterns) might increase air pollution. Most importantly, interactions between changed air pollution and increased air temperature can affect human health strongly. A better understanding of these interactions will enable more effective air pollution and climate policies.

Traffic jam on a foggy evening (Credit: Jacek Dylag on Unsplash)
Barley ears (Credit: MabelAmber on Pixabay)

Geographically, the project will focus on West Africa and Europe, with a particular focus on Germany. These regions experience very different realities regarding their current and projected emissions, the effects of climate change, the type of crops and vegetation that can be affected by pollution. Therefore, we want to identify the potential differences in drivers of ambient air pollution between the regions to define effective mitigation policies.

In IMPAC²T the global-regional chemistry-climate model MECO(n) [extern] to will be employed to perform consistent air quality and climate projections at high resolution for Europe, Germany, and West Africa. These simulation results will be used to study trends of ambient air pollution, atmospheric temperature and their impacts on human health and vegetation.

For Germany we will perform a detailed epidemiological assessment based on the MECO(n) results and the NAKO cohort study [extern] with a focus on cardiovascular diseases. 

We will work in close collaboration with local authorities to discuss and define potential mitigation option for the transport sector to reduce air pollution effects on human health and vegetation.

MECO(n) global-regional model system with refinements over Europe (Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0))