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Scientific assessment of background ozone over the US: Implications for air quality management
  • Published Date:
    2018
  • Source:
    Elementa-Science of the Anthropocene, 6, 30.
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Scientific assessment of background ozone over the US: Implications for air quality management
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  • Description:
    Ozone (O-3) is a key air pollutant that is produced from precursor emissions and has adverse impacts on human health and ecosystems. In the U.S., the Clean Air Act (CAA) regulates O-3 levels to protect public health and welfare, but unraveling the origins of surface O-3 is complicated by the presence of contributions from multiple sources including background sources like stratospheric transport, wildfires, biogenic precursors, and international anthropogenic pollution, in addition to U.S. anthropogenic sources. In this report, we consider more than 100 published studies and assess current knowledge on the spatial and temporal distribution, trends, and sources of background O-3 over the continental U.S., and evaluate how it influences attainment of the air quality standards. We conclude that spring and summer seasonal mean U.S. background O-3 (USB O-3), or O-3 formed from natural sources plus anthropogenic sources in countries outside the U.S., is greatest at high elevation locations in the western U.S., with monthly mean maximum daily 8- hour average (MDA8) mole fractions approaching 50 parts per billion (ppb) and annual 4th highest MDA8s exceeding 60 ppb, at some locations. At lower elevation sites, e.g., along the West and East Coasts, seasonal mean MDA8 USB O-3 is in the range of 20- 40 ppb, with generally smaller contributions on the highest O-3 days. The uncertainty in U.S. background O-3 is around +/- 10 ppb for seasonal mean values and higher for individual days. Noncontrollable O-3 sources, such as stratospheric intrusions or precursors from wildfires, can make significant contributions to O-3 on some days, but it is challenging to quantify accurately these contributions. We recommend enhanced routine observations, focused field studies, processoriented modeling studies, and greater emphasis on the complex photochemistry in smoke plumes as key steps to reduce the uncertainty associated with background O-3 in the U.S.

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