Measurements of Ozone Precursors in the Lake Tahoe Basin, USA
Friday, 19 December 2014
Lake Tahoe, located at 6,225 ft. (1,897 m) in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, is the largest alpine lake in North America. Known for the clarity of its water and the panorama of surrounding mountains on all sides, Lake Tahoe is a prime tourist attraction in the California – Nevada area. However, the Lake Tahoe Basin is facing significant environmental pollution problems, including declining water clarity and air quality issues. During the period of July 21 - 26, 2012, we conducted a field study in the Basin designed to characterize the precursors and pathways of secondary pollutant formation, including ozone and secondary organic aerosol (SOA). Four sites were selected; two were located at high elevations (one each on the western and eastern sides of the Basin) and two were positioned near the Lake level. Ozone and NO/NO2 concentrations were continuously measured. With a resolution of several hours over a 6-day sampling period canister samples were collected for detailed speciation of volatile organic compounds (VOC), 2,4-dinitrophenylhydrazine (DNPH) impregnated Sep-Pak cartridges for analysis of carbonyl compounds, PM2.5 Teflon and quartz filter samples for determination of mass, organic and elemental carbon (OC/EC) concentrations and speciation of organic compounds. Whereas the concentrations of lower molecular weight (mw) C2 – C3 hydrocarbons were generally the highest at all sampling sites, ranging from 25 to 76% of the total measured VOC (over 70 species from C2 to C10), the concentrations of biogenic hydrocarbons, isoprene and α-pinene were significant, ranging from 1.4 to 26% and 1.5 to 30%, respectively, of the total VOC. For comparison, the sum of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes (BTEX) constituted from 2.5 to 37% of the total VOC. All four sites showed maximum ozone concentrations in the range of 60 ppb. However, the lower sites show a pronounced diurnal pattern (i.e. maximum concentrations during the daytime hours, 0900 to 1700, with minimum values at night and in the early morning hours), whereas the upper sites shows much less variability over the 24-hour diurnal period. NO/NO2 concentrations were generally low, in the range of a few ppb. This presentation will discuss VOC and NOx patterns at these four sites in terms of their relevance to local ozone formation and/or regional transport.