Hampton VA (SPX) Aug 12, 2010
On July 6 this summer, Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality issued the region's first "unhealthy" air alert since 2008.
The culprit? "Bad" ozone and other air pollution that had combined to produce an abnormally high reading of 119 parts per billion in Suffolk and 70-80 parts per billion in other parts of southeastern Virginia. That compares to the natural concentration of ozone of about 10 parts per billion that was the norm more than a century ago.
Ozone spikes are part of a pattern of increasing O3 levels globally, in even the most remote areas, says Dr. Jack Fishman, senior research scientist in the Science Directorate at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.
Fishman is an expert in the composition of the troposphere, which is the part of the atmosphere that extends from the ground up to four to 12 miles (19.3 km), depending on where it is measured. In general, the troposphere is deeper in the tropics than at higher latitudes.
The troposphere contains about 75 percent of the atmosphere's mass, 99 percent of its water vapor and is where weather occurs.
Although 'good' ozone high in the stratosphere - the layer just above the troposphere - provides a shield to protect life on Earth, direct contact with it is harmful to plants and animals, including humans.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, exposure to ozone levels of greater than 80 parts per billion for eight hours or longer is unhealthy. Harmful effects can include throat and lung irritation or aggravation of asthma or emphysema.
Ground-level 'bad' ozone forms when nitrogen oxide gases from vehicle and industrial emissions react with volatile organic compounds - carbon-containing chemicals that evaporate easily into the air, such as gasoline and paint thinners.
In addition to impacting human health, rising ozone levels are measurably reducing crops yields, says Fishman.
Among the crops affected are soybeans, rice, alfalfa, barley, cotton, oat, peanut, potato and wheat. Research by Fishman and others suggests that globally, the cost of crop damage by surface ozone is as much as $26 billion annually.
And it's likely to get worse.
"Coupling our recently published crop productivity statistical findings with a global model that simulates the formation and transport of ozone pollution, our findings suggest that we are now at a crossroads with respect to agricultural productivity," the St. Louis native says.
Surface ozone, Fishman adds, knows no geographic or political boundaries. Indeed, he says, "the influx of pollution from east Asia might have been a factor that led to crossing a threshold concentration in the U.S. so that the impact of such pollution is now observable.
In other words, if we had done the same analysis using agricultural and ozone data from the 1980s or even 1990s, the impact of ozone on crops would not have been seen."
"Certainly, in the 19th and early 20th century, background surface ozone concentrations were so low that an increase of 25 percent would not have affected living organisms," says Fishman. "But with the IPCC-projected increase on the order of 10 to 20 percent in the next decade or two, the currently observable effects on crop productivity will be significantly exacerbated."
How data are gathered
At NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., air-quality monitoring is performed onsite daily by Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The monitoring station opened this past spring under an agreement between NASA and the DEQ.
Measured are pollutants - from factories, power plants and cars - that can damage human health, plants, the environment and infrastructure. The pollutants include ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides and airborne particulates.
The site "will bring together the partnership of NASA, DEQ, and the EPA in a coordinated effort to assess the relationship between space-based observations and surface observations of air quality," Langley scientist Margaret Pippin said last April. She is the scientist coordinating the DEQ's move to Langley.
The Langley site will house a complementary instrument that is essentially a ground-based version of the Ozone Monitoring Instrument. In parallel, both instruments will provide unique insight into how satellites can be used to improve our understanding of the formation of widespread air pollution episodes.
Ground-based air-quality measuring stations are located around the world. Although these provide valuable data, their coverage is limited. Satellites can provide a more global picture of air quality, but the quantities they measure from space are dependent on other factors in addition to the concentration measured at the surface.
In addition to the DEQ/EPA/NASA venture, a Langley-led campaign will make trace gas and particulate measurements from instruments aboard NASA aircraft.
The campaign is intended to improve the use of satellites for monitoring air quality, and to better understand the relationship between ground and satellite measurements.
The five-year effort will draw on researchers at Langley, Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.; Ames Research Center, outside San Francisco; and multiple universities.
The campaign is called DISCOVER-AQ (Deriving Information on Surface Conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality).
Share This Article With Planet Earth
Langley Research Center
All about the Ozone Layer
Key Compound Of Ozone Destruction Detected
Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany (SPX) Jul 28, 2010
For the first time, KIT scientists have successfully measured in the ozone layer the chlorine compound ClOOCl which plays an important role in stratospheric ozone depletion. The doubts in the established models of polar ozone chemistry expressed by American researchers based on laboratory measurements are disproved by these new atmospheric observations. The established role played by chlor ... read more
Buoys To Measure Air And Sea Interactions In Typhoons Launched|
Islamic charities versus the US in battle for Pakistan aid
UN to launch appeal as Pakistan flood disaster deepens
China gold mine fire kills 16 workers
Safer Plastics That Lock In Potentially Harmful Plasticizers
Better Displays Ahead
Chinese 'peel' widget converts Apple Touch to phone: report
Inauguration Of First DLR Ground Station In Canada
China begins moving 330,000 people for water project
First Satellite Measurement Of Water Volume In Amazon Floodplain
Ancient Blob-Like Creature Of The Deep
Obama to serve Gulf seafood at birthday bash: aide
Arctic ice island poses no immediate threat, says discoverer
'City-sized' ice island breaks off glacier
Ice drilling could foretell climate
Ice-Free Arctic Ocean May Not Be Of Much Use In Soaking Up Carbon Dioxide
Russian drought devours world wheat supplies: US
Bread prices soar in drought-hit Russia
New Zealand dairy backs product in China hormone scandal
Global warming threatens Asian rice production: study
Deadly Typhoon Dianmu cuts across Japan
Terrified trekkers recount flood 'hell' in Indian Himalayas
Ramadan misery for Pakistan flood victims
Under-fire Zardari visits Pakistan flood victims
Mugabe thanks China for steadfast support
Mugabe urges army to 'jealously guard' Zimbabwe's resources
Kagame set for landslide in Rwandan presidential vote
Blood diamonds, a warlord and a supermodel
The Worst Impact Of Climate Change May Be How Humanity Reacts To It
Stone tools used by earliest 'butchers'
Reading The Zip Codes Of 3,500-Year-Old Letters
Internet lifestyles leave digital estates for descendants
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2010 - SpaceDaily. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement|