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

lobal atmospheric wind records and sophisticated computer modeling to match each ozone measurement with air-flow patterns for several days before it was recorded. This approach essentially let the scientists track ozone-producing emissions back to a broad region of origin.

This method is like imagining a box full of 40,000 tiny weightless balls at the exact location of each ozone measurement, said Cooper. Factoring in winds in the days prior to the measurement, the computer model estimates which winds brought the balls to that spot and where they originated.

When the dominant airflow came from south and east Asia, the scientists saw the largest increases in ozone measurements. When airflow patterns were not directly from Asia, ozone still increased but at a lower rate, indicating the possibility that emissions from other places could be contributing to the ozone increases above North America.

The study used springtime ozone measurements because previous studies have shown that air transport from Asia to North America is strongest in spring, making it easier to discern possible effects of distant pollution on the North American ozone trends.

Ozone-measuring research balloons and research aircraft collected a portion of the data. Commercial flights equipped with ozone-measuring instruments also collected a large share of the data through the MOZAIC program, initiated by European scientists in 1994. The bulk of the data was collected between 1995 and 2008, but the team also included a large ozone dataset from 1984.

The analysis shows an overall significant increase in springtime ozone of 14 percent from 1995 to 2008. When they included data from 1984, the year with the lowest average ozone level, the scientists saw a similar rate of increase from that time through 2008 and an overall increase in springtime ozone of 29 percent.

"This study did not quantify how much of the ozone increase is solely due to Asia," Coope
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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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