Colorado Front Range Surface Ozone Analysis
Friday, 19 December 2014
The Colorado Front Range is a unique geographical region for air quality studies, including research of surface level ozone. Not only does surface ozone play a critical role in regulating the oxidation capacity of the atmosphere, but is a primary contributor to local smog and leads to public health complications and altered ecosystem functioning. The high frequency of sunny days, increasing population and pollution, and Mountain/Valley air dynamics of this region provide atmospheric conditions suitable for production and accumulation of ozone at the surface. This region of Colorado is currently in an ozone non-attainment status due to an assortment of contributing factors. Precursor emissions from pollution, wild-fires, and gas and oil production; along with stratosphere-troposphere exchange, can all result in high ozone episodes over the Colorado Front Range. To understand the dynamics of ozone accumulation in this region, Thermo-Scientific ozone monitors have been continuously sampling ozone from 4 different altitudes since the early 2000s. Analysis of ozone data in relation to Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Methane (CH4), Carbon Monoxide (CO), wind-conditions and back-trajectory air mass origins help to address local ozone precursor emissions and resulting high ozone episodes. Increased ozone episodes are scrutinized with regards to dominant wind direction to determine main precursor emission sources. Analysis of this data reveals a strong influence of precursor emissions from the North-East wind sector, with roughly 50% of ozone exceedances originating from winds prevailing from this direction. Further, correlation with methane is enhanced when prevailing winds are from the North-East; indicative of influence from natural gas processes and feedlot activity. Similar analysis is completed for the North-West wind sector exceedances, with strong correlation to carbon monoxide; likely related to emissions from biomass burning events and forest fires. In depth analysis of ozone exceedances allows for further understanding of variability in the long-term and seasonal trends. Knowledge of Colorado Front Range ozone dynamics is imperative for future regulations on this important pollutant.