We evaluate air quality modeling over the East Mediterranean using the benchmarking methodology developed in the framework of the Forum for Air Quality Modelling in Europe (FAIRMODE). FAIRMODE aims to provide a harmonized approach of model evaluation for regulatory purposes. We test the methodology by assessing the performance of the Weather Research and Forecasting model coupled with chemistry (WRF-Chem) against ground-based air quality observations over Cyprus, a member state of the European Union. Two nested domains are used (at 50- and 10-km horizontal grid spacing) with the comparison performed over the innermost domain. We consider performance indicators reflecting regulations for air quality standards (maximum daily 8-hourly mean ozone, hourly nitrogen dioxide, and daily fine particulate matter concentrations). The WRF-Chem model is found to satisfy the proposed performance objectives regarding ozone and NO2, though it underestimates the latter in urban areas possibly due to uncertainties in emission inventories. Fine particulate matter is well represented by the model, except on days with strong influence from natural sources, highlighting the necessity for fine-tuning dust mobilization and transport in the region. The objectives are fulfilled even though discrepancies exist between model and observations. Our results indicate the need for more stringent performance criteria at relatively low concentrations. Overall, we find that the methodology provides in-depth information and relevant statistical metrics to guide air quality and model assessments for monitoring compliance with the EU Air Quality Directives and other guidelines to limit the impact of air pollution on human health and ecosystems.
Keywords: Air pollution; Cyprus; EU Air Quality Directive; East Mediterranean; FAIRMODE; Model evaluation.