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Study Links Springtime Ozone Increases Above Western North America to Emissions in Asia

Cooper
Springtime ozone distributions for 1984, 1995–2008 in the mid-troposphere (3.0–8.0 km), and air mass source regions. Credit: Nature, Cooper et al. Click to enlarge.

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. These 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.

Tropospheric ozone is an important source of the hydroxyl radical, an oxidant that breaks down most pollutants and some greenhouse gases. High concentrations of tropospheric ozone are toxic, however, and have a detrimental effect on human health and ecosystem productivity. (The US EPA recently proposed new tougher ground-level ozone standards. Earlier post.) Moreover, tropospheric ozone itself acts as an effective greenhouse gas.

Much of the present tropospheric ozone burden is a consequence of anthropogenic emissions of ozone precursors resulting in widespread increases in ozone concentrations since the late 1800s. At present, east Asia has the fastest-growing ozone precursor emissions and much of the springtime east Asian pollution is exported eastwards towards western North America.

Despite evidence that the exported Asian pollution produces ozone, the authors note, no previous study has found a significant increase in free tropospheric ozone concentrations above the western USA since measurements began in the late 1970s.

Published in the 21 January issue of the journal Nature, this new study analyzed large sets of ozone data captured since 1984. The study focused on springtime ozone in a slice of the atmosphere from two to five miles above the surface of western North America, 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 then analyze the 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.

In springtime, pollution from across the hemisphere, not nearby sources, contributes to the ozone increases above western North America. When air is transported from a broad region of south and east Asia, the trend is largest.

—lead author Owen R. Cooper, Ph.D.

Cooper and colleagues from NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., and eight other research institutes used historical data of global 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.

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% 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%.

This study did not quantify how much of the ozone increase is solely due to Asia. But we can say that the background ozone entering North America increased over the past 14 years and probably over the past 25 years.

—Owen Cooper

The influence of ozone from Asia and other sources on ground-level air quality is a question for further study, Cooper said. Scientists will need to routinely measure ozone levels close to the surface at several locations along the West Coast to see whether similar trends are impacting ground-level air quality.

Collaborating institutions include the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, the National Center of Scientific Research Midi-Pyrenees Observatory in Toulouse, France; the Meteorological Service of Canada; NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology; the University of Washington; the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colo.; and NASA’s Langley Research Center. The MOZAIC program is supported by the European Communities, EADS, Airbus and the airlines (Lufthansa, Austrian, Air France) who have carried MOZAIC equipment free of charge since 1994.

Resources

  • O. R. Cooper, et al. (2010) Increasing springtime ozone mixing ratios in the free troposphere over western North America. Nature 463, 344-348 doi: 10.1038/nature08708

Comments

The Goracle

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"Study Links..." LOL!!!! Once again, it's all about the $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. Was this "study" funded by a government wanting to make people think that we are near catastrophe unless we give up our freedoms, accept massive tax increases, and allow suffocating government control over our lives? Why... Yes!

In a related article, the U.N. again admits fraud in their "Climate Science." See the link, below:

UN climate chief admits mistake on Himalayan glaciers warning

Why didn't Green Car Congress post this VERY relevant Climate Change® article??? The debate is NOT over. The fraud by "Climate Researchers" is being exposed daily. "Mistake." LOL!!! Outright fraud is what it is.

.

Kit P

“The influence of ozone from Asia and other sources on ground-level air quality is a question for further study, Cooper said.”

For those who want to check their air quality without paying Cooper:

http://airnow.gov/

Nat Pearre

Goracle: How do you think science should be funded?

SVW

Goracle you already have massive tax increases to pay for the poor struggling Wall St boys....and clearly the government is intruding evermore into your life to fend off those chaps with bombs in their undershorts.....It's a good thing the President GW Bush is blameless about no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.....He was just badly advised by the CIA, the same guys who couldn't find the undershorts bomber.
You know otherwise some suspicious people might say things like ""Mistake." LOL!!! Outright fraud is what it is......"

sulleny

I don't know. Just about ANY report on "climate change" is suspected to be tosh these days. If the study was published in "Nature" magazine - we're pretty sure it is utter tosh.

Too bad the climate alarmists managed to expose themselves as extortionists, corrupt venerable old institutions of science, and come away empty handed. AND Air America went and crashed into Chapter 7 BK today!! Dam.

tomp

what i find to be a head scratcher is how many climate skeptics think everything is a giant conspiracy to hold down the man through increased taxes and so on.

doesn't a 14GT net annual imbalance in CO2 emissions cause anyone to think that CO2 might possibly just be another pollutant, like ozone, NOx, and SOx before it... all of which are pollutants which we happily regulate and breathe cleaner air in cities like LA because of it. doesn't even take a fancy climate model to understand that too much of anything expelled into the environment is not a good thing.

please provide a long list of examples of human generated pollutants that have generated positive long-term results for the ecosystem and human health. the list of human pollutants that have been found to be detrimental include mercury, lead, NOx, SOx, asbestos, cigarette smoke and so on.

and "CO2 is naturally occurring" is not a legit answer, because so is just about any pollutant - it's the amount that is an issue.

stumped by all the conspiracy talk and nitpicking at minor mistakes in 2000 page reports.

sulleny

tomp, read this and you won't be stumped any longer. No conspiracy - just self-serving science fraud:

http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/reprint/climategate_analysis.pdf

ai_vin

Yes do read that, but keep in mind the source;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_and_Public_Policy_Institute

Kit P

“too much of anything expelled into the environment is not a good thing”

Then on the other hand, it is not necessarily a bad thing. I happen to think that having clean drinking water, food, and shelter are good things. Since tomp just communicated via an internet, he agrees by example of living that way.

“the list of human pollutants that have been found to be detrimental include mercury, lead, NOx, SOx, asbestos, cigarette smoke and so on.”

Actually this is a list of natural pollutants where man is a small contributor. DDT and PCBs would be an example of human pollutants.

So tomb I agree with you that there is not a conspiracy. There are those who are ignorant of science like tomb and then there are those who should know better but use science for fear mongering. The good news is that the 'too much' pollutants happen to be several orders of magnitude of harm identified by the scientists almost everyplace in the US almost all the time.

It would really be refreshing to scientis

Kit P

It would really be refreshing to hear scientist say we are monitoring your air quality and it is great.

Kit P

“too much of anything expelled into the environment is not a good thing”

Then on the other hand, it is not necessarily a bad thing. I happen to think that having clean drinking water, food, and shelter are good things. Since tomp just communicated via an internet, he agrees by example of living that way.

“the list of human pollutants that have been found to be detrimental include mercury, lead, NOx, SOx, asbestos, cigarette smoke and so on.”

Actually this is a list of natural pollutants where man is a small contributor. DDT and PCBs would be an example of human pollutants.

So tomb I agree with you that there is not a conspiracy. There are those who are ignorant of science like tomb and then there are those who should know better but use science for fear mongering. The good news is that the 'too much' pollutants happen to be several orders of magnitude of harm identified by the scientists almost everyplace in the US almost all the time.

Thomas Lankester

So how does an article about ground level ozone concentrations say anything about climate change?

At what point does it relate to any hypothetical tax increases?

You have an article that effectively says 'this is NOT all the fault of the US'. Go with it chaps, don't gripe.

@KitP
This seems like another semantic debate about the meaning of pollution with a twist - human or natural? If the human contribution is >> the natural one, in the relevant context (e.g. asbestos in buildings, smog in cities) then why slag someone off over it? He knows what he means, you know what he means and so does every one else.

As for having a pop at tomb for 'being ignorant of science' - re-examine your own science knowledge.
How is man a small contributor to cigarette smoke? Hows much baccie is the wildlife smoking in your local bars, pubs and restaurants?
Ditto lead (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/265/5180/1841).

Can you show where you found out that man is a small contributor to the pollutants in tomb's list? There is considerable research on mercury build up in the Arctic marine food chains and of SOx and NOx contribution to urban smog as well as acid rain effects on northern forests and lakes.

'It would really be refreshing to hear scientist say we are monitoring your air quality and it is great.'

They do say it in a range of journals, stats and reports but it is not a sexy 'shock' story for the media to report. Ever noticed how the 'good news' stories often get dumped at the end of a broadcast as a throw away.

sulleny

ai_vin resorts to ad hom attack against messenger rather than confront the message. Yeah the place is a right think tank. Still, the hockey team has corrupted climate science and is responsible for tarnishing the field and its adherents for the next 30-40 years.

Neither left or right corruption is a benefit to society.

ai_vin

ai_vin resorts to ad hom attack against messenger rather than confront the message.

An ad hominem argument, also known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin: "argument toward the person" or "argument against the person") is an argument which links the validity of a premise to an irrelevant characteristic or belief of the person advocating the premise. It is not irrelevant that the Science and Public Policy Institute claims it is not connected to the former Center for Science and Public Policy of the Frontiers of Freedom but their Executive Director is Robert "Bob" Ferguson, who was listed as executive director of the Center for Science and Public Policy in the Frontiers of Freedom Foundation in 2006. Nor is it irrelevent they claim they are free from affiliation to any corporation [which can't be proven as long as they are not obliged by law to reveal, and do not reveal, they're sources of funding] or political party [which IS disproven by Bob being a republican and this Frontiers of Freedom being a rightwing policy group]. Nor is it irrelevent that they claim to be doing "sound science" when they hire ONLY skeptics as science advisers.

ai_vin

And furthermore if you think me advising someone to "keep in mind the source" is an attack rather than just counseling them to seek more information and cross-reference sources - well, once again you disappoint me.

sulleny

Your disappointment is misplaced. The author of the analysis is the messenger - NOT the publisher. The author is a journalist who took no money from anyone to write his report. The publisher is indeed a right wing tank - UNinvolved in creating the content of the report.

Ninety percent of the report is Climategate characters writing in their own words. Remember, Climategate is a collection of emails written by the... ahem, "world's leading climate scientists."

Here is CBC's view of the scandal:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgIEQqLokL8&feature=player_embedded

Kit P

@Thomas Lankester

“Can you show ...?”

Yes, do you think I have an obligation to provide reference for every absurd junk science claim?

Did you look at AIRNOW?

So Thomas, look up the natural sources of mercury and compare them to anthropogenic sources. Show me the people eating fish who have a level mercury in the their blood above a threshold of harm.

ai_vin

Ok then, I'll advise tomp to google "John P. Costella" in addition to the Science and Public Policy Institute; check out his home page, research what others think of him and let him decide for himself.

ai_vin

Oh and BTW that's not "CBC's view of the scandal," it's only Rex Murphy's opinion, his "Point of View."

sulleny

Okay. Fair enough. Let's remind tomp that it is the content of the emails that has disturbed policy makers, academics and the science community.

Yesterday the UK Parliament Science and Technology Committee announced the 5th official investigation into Climategate. It's getting hard to keep track of all the officials finding reasons to investigate the "world's leading climate scientists."
http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/science_technology/s_t_cru_inquiry.cfm

And the head of the IPCC is now a Times of India cartoon character:
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=TOINEW&BaseHref=CAP/2010/01/22&PageLabel=14&ForceGif=true&EntityId=Ar01405&ViewMode=HTML&GZ=T

ai_vin

Let's remind tomp that it is the out of context quotes that have disturbed the sheeple.

Will S

Let's remind sulleny that there is another 64MB of emails he has not read.

And the few that give him heartburn:

"Trick to avoid the decline": This was discussed openly in peer-reviewed literature long ago (tree ring data post-1960), so there's nothing new here.

"Reinvent the peer review process": The published paper was extremely poor, made no empirically supportable statements, and would have flunked a Master's thesis review. An uproar over it's publication was justifiable, and indeed caused an uproar in the editorial staff even before the referenced email.

sulleny

Will, to lighten the play check out this hilarious Penn and Teller episode on "Being Green."

http://www.milkandcookies.com/link/120348/detail/

The survey at 17 minutes-in demonstrates well how gullible people can be. So funny it'd make andy kauffman weep.

Will S

We don't need a comedic script to show how gullible people are, FauxNews shows us how they do it in real life.

sulleny

Trouble is - it's NOT scripted. This is how gullible people have been for the whole climate crisis.

Colossal, total VR failure.

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