Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ground-level ozone falling faster than model predicted

Date:
March 11, 2013
Source:
Rice University
Summary:
While dangerous ozone levels have fallen with reductions in emissions from vehicles and industry, a new study suggests a model widely used to predict the impact of remediation efforts has been too conservative.

There is good news and better news about ground-level ozone in American cities. While dangerous ozone levels have fallen in places that clamp down on emissions from vehicles and industry, a new study from Rice University suggests that a model widely used to predict the impact of remediation efforts has been too conservative.

Particularly in Northeastern cities, ozone levels dropped even beyond what was anticipated by cutting emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from 2002 to 2006. The study published online by the journal Atmospheric Environment suggests the Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model misjudged the reduction in ozone by 20 to 60 percent.

"The models have been underpredicting how much benefit we get from controlling NOx emissions in some instances," said Daniel Cohan, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and an author of the study with Rice graduate student Wei Zhou and Sergey Napelenok, a scientist in the Environmental Protection Agency's Atmospheric Modeling and Analysis Division.

"Following major controls of NOx, ozone has come down more quickly than anticipated," Cohan said. "This is good news. But it also poses a challenge because states rely upon models to predict whether they'll attain ozone standards in the future. If the models have key uncertainties that affect their responsiveness, that can affect the states' control strategies."

Ozone is not emitted directly but instead forms near the ground from precursor emissions of NOx and hydrocarbons. Modeling of this complex chemistry is important to help states comply with federal standards for ozone, which now stand at 75 parts per billion (ppb) and may be tightened by the Obama administration. A recent Rice study showed a positive correlation between high ozone levels and cardiac arrest.

In 2002, the EPA implemented a cap-and-trade program known as the NOx SIP Call to curtail emissions of ozone-forming NOx from industries in Eastern states. The dramatic reduction in emissions over the subsequent four years provided a real-world experiment for the researchers to test how well computer models predict improvements in air quality.

"We found that even when we tried to model things with the best available emissions and the best available meteorology, we still had a gap, especially in the Northeast states, that couldn't be explained," he said.

In the SIP Call regions, the researchers found the simulated drop in ozone was 4.6 ppb, while the observed drop was 8 ppb, a significant difference. Faster-than-expected reductions in NOx emissions may explain some but not all of that gap. The remaining gap may result from inaccuracies in how the model represents the chemistry and transport of air pollutants, Cohan said.

"How ozone responds to changes in NOx and hydrocarbons is a nonlinear chemistry," Cohan said. "So it's certainly possible that even the best models could be slightly inaccurate in defining those relationships. It tells us that, as modelers, we need to revisit the formulations, especially the chemistry."

While it may be preferable for models to be a bit conservative rather than too aggressive in predicting ozone improvements, Cohan said, the models are intended to represent air pollution as accurately as possible. A study by Cohan's research group last year showed that regulatory modeling by states tended to slightly under-predict the ozone reductions that were actually achieved.

"The goal of everyone in the process is to reach attainment in the most cost-effective manner possible, and we need accurate models to inform those decisions," Cohan said.

The National Science Foundation funded the study through a CAREER grant to Cohan.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rice University. The original article was written by Mike Williams. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Wei Zhou, Daniel S. Cohan, Sergey L. Napelenok. Reconciling NOx emissions reductions and ozone trends in the U.S., 2002–2006. Atmospheric Environment, 2013; 70: 236 DOI: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2012.12.038

Cite This Page:

Rice University. "Ground-level ozone falling faster than model predicted." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 March 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130311123933.htm>.
Rice University. (2013, March 11). Ground-level ozone falling faster than model predicted. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130311123933.htm
Rice University. "Ground-level ozone falling faster than model predicted." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130311123933.htm (accessed September 18, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Federal researchers are exploring more than a dozen underwater sites where they believe ships sank in the treacherous waters west of San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) Mount Paektu volcano in North Korea is showing signs of life and there's not much known about it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins