, Volume 181, Issue 1-4, pp 401-408
Date: 05 Jan 2007

The 2003 European Heat Wave: Which Role for Ozone? Some Data from Tuscany, Central Italy

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A unique, record-breaking, killer heat wave occurred across several European countries during the first two weeks of August 2003. As weather conditions which characterize heat waves are highly conductive to tropospheric ozone formation and persistence, this is a contributing factor which should be regarded as a major stressor for biota. Hourly ozone means were captured between 1 and 15 August 2003 with automatic analysers in nine stations in Tuscany, distributed into six Districts. Compared to historical ozone reference climatology, daily maxima of 2003 were systematically higher by a factor of about 1.5, with differences which approached three times standard deviation. At the end of the period, cumulated ozone exposure over the threshold of 40 ppb (AOT40) was 4,750 ppb h in 2003, vs 2,200 ppb h of the historical series; such a difference was four times the standard deviation of the long-term series. Biological data are also enclosed in the present study, in the form of analysis of the ratio between above ground biomass produced by NC-S and NC-R clones of white clover when exposed to ambient air. Standardised samplings were performed on a monthly basis, and a significant difference between the two data sets was observed between summer 2003 and the historical series. The close correlation of high-ozone episode with increased temperature (as a consequence of increased solar radiation) suggests that, if climate change were to result in warmer summers in Europe, more frequent exceedances of dangerous ozone thresholds would be expected at the current emission levels.