Strengths and Limitations of Current Tools to Characterize Background Ozone

EM – November 2020: This month, EM explores the strengths and limitations of the tools used to accurately quantify background ozone.
by Heather Simon and Golam Sarwar

A key aspect of air quality management is identifying the driving sources of air pollution. In the United States, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses the concept of “background ozone” to describe ozone (O3) coming from sources other than anthropogenic emissions of O3 precursors. EPA has identified provisions in the U.S. Clean Air Act that provide regulatory relief to local jurisdictions that are unduly impacted by background O3. Each of these provisions relies on technical tools—including photochemical models, monitors, satellite data, and ozonesondes—to accurately quantify O3 originating from controllable, anthropogenic sources versus background O3. The articles in this month's EM explore the strengths and limitations of current tools used to quantify background O3.

To begin, Hogrefe, et al. delve into the details of air quality models that are critical for characterizing source contributions to O3 concentrations at different locations across the United States. Second, Neu, et al. describe how satellite data are being used to inform air quality models. Next, Stauffer, et al. couple statistical analysis of zonesonde measurements at Trinidad Head, CA, with routine O3 surface monitors in California, satellite-derived carbon monoxide surfaces, and meteorology data. Finally, Jaffe, et al. describe the uncertainties associated with each of the tools addressed in the other three articles and identify the need for targeted investment to address current shortcomings.

Continue reading the full November 2020 issue of EM.


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