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NASA simulation portrays ozone intrusions from aloft
Date:4/10/2014

Outdoor enthusiasts in Colorado's Front Range are occasionally rewarded with remarkable visibility brought about by dry, clear air and wind. But it's what people in the mountainous U.S. West can't see in conditions like this ozone plunging down to the ground from high in the stratosphere, the second layer of the atmosphere that has attracted the interest of NASA scientists, university scientists and air quality managers.

Ozone in the stratosphere, located on average 10 to 48 kilometers (6 to 30 miles) above the ground, typically stays in the stratosphere. Not on days like April 6, 2012.

On that day, a fast-moving area of low pressure moved northeast across states in the Western U.S., clipping western and northern Colorado. Ozone-rich stratospheric air descended, folding into tropospheric air near the ground. Winds took hold of the air mass and pushed it in all directions, bringing stratospheric ozone to the ground in Colorado and along the Northern Front Range. The event, called a stratospheric ozone intrusion, raised ground-level ozone concentrations in some areas to potentially unhealthy levels. Watch the intrusion unfold in a new NASA simulation of the event.

Ozone high in the atmosphere, in the stratosphere, forms naturally when sunlight mingles with oxygen molecules to form the well-known "layer" that protects life on Earth from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. That's in contrast to ozone near the ground, in the troposphere, which forms from complex reactions involving chemicals emitted from industrial processes, vehicle exhaust, and other byproducts of fossil fuel combustion. Ozone at ground level can damage lung tissue and pose an immediate threat to sensitive groups such as people with asthma.

For this reason, the Clean Air Act requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set a threshold for ground-level ozone, as outlined in the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. States that exceed this threshol
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Contact: Kathryn Hansen
kathryn.h.hansen@nasa.gov
301-286-1046
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Source:Eurekalert

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