Nitrous oxide pollution from aircraft to increase by 2050



This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Correction [to “Nitrous oxide pollution from aircraft to increase by 2050”] Volume 93, Issue 41, 404, Article first published online: 9 October 2012


The transportation industry is not only one of the biggest sources of air pollution and a significant player in greenhouse gas–induced global warming, but, as a new study shows, the industry could also be responsible for episodes of ozone (O3 ) pollution, particularly over the United States and northern Europe. Combustion of fuel in cars, shipping vessels, and low-flying aircraft produce nitrogen oxides (NOx), which not only decrease the lifetime of greenhouse gases such as methane but also react with other molecules in the atmosphere to form tropospheric O3, another, more lethal, air pollutant. Hauglustaine and Koff used a global three-dimensional chemistry-climate model to investigate how different components of the transportation industry—cars, ships, and low-flying aircraft—would contribute to NOx pollution over the next few decades under several projected emission scenarios. They found that as road transportation stagnates or even declines due to stricter regulations and congestion, NOx emissions from cars will decrease over time. However, aircraft will increase in number and could contribute between 25% and 48% of NOx emissions, which will be most severe over the United States and Europe—two regions with the highest growth rate in commercial aviation.