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Study links springtime ozone increases above western North America to emissions from abroad
Date:1/20/2010

Springtime ozone levels above western North America are rising primarily due to air flowing eastward from the Pacific Ocean, a trend that is largest when the air originates in Asia.

Such increases in ozone could make it more difficult for the United States to meet Clean Air Act standards for ozone pollution at ground level, according to a new international study. Published online today in the journal Nature, the study analyzed large sets of ozone data captured since 1984.

"In springtime, pollution from across the hemisphere, not nearby sources, contributes to the ozone increases above western North America," said lead author Owen R. Cooper, of the NOAA-funded Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder. "When air is transported from a broad region of south and east Asia, the trend is largest."

The study focused on springtime ozone in a slice of the atmosphere from two to five miles above the surface of western North America, far below the protective ozone layer but above ozone-related, ground-level smog that is harmful to human health and crops. Ozone in this intermediate region constitutes the northern hemisphere background, or baseline, level of ozone in the lower atmosphere. The study was the first to pull together and analyze nearly 100,000 ozone observations gathered in separate studies by instruments on aircraft, balloons and other platforms.

Combustion of fossil fuels releases pollutants like nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which react in the presence of sunlight to form ozone. North American emissions contribute to global ozone levels, but the researchers did not find any evidence that these local emissions are driving the increasing trend in ozone above western North America.

Cooper and colleagues from NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder and eight other research institutes used historical data of g
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Contact: Owen Cooper
owen.r.cooper@noaa.gov
303-497-3599
University of Colorado at Boulder
Source:Eurekalert  

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