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Springtime Ozone Increases Due To Emissions

National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration — Springtime ozone levels above western North America are rising primarily due to air flowing eastward from the Pacific Ocean, a trend that is largest when the air originates in Asia. These increases in ozone could make it more difficult for the United States to meet Clean Air Act standards for ozone pollution at ground level, according to a new international study. Published online today in the journal Nature, the study analyzed large sets of ozone data captured since 1984.

“In springtime, pollution from across the hemisphere, not nearby sources, contributes to the ozone increases above western North America,” said lead author Owen R. Cooper, Ph.D., of the NOAA-funded Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “When air is transported from a broad region of south and east Asia, the trend is largest.”

The study focused on springtime ozone in a slice of the atmosphere from two to five miles above the surface of western North America, far below the protective ozone layer but above ozone-related, ground-level smog that is harmful to human health and crops. Ozone in this intermediate region constitutes the northern hemisphere background or baseline level of ozone in the lower atmosphere. The study was the first to pull together and then analyze the nearly 100,000 ozone observations gathered in separate studies by instruments on aircraft, balloons, and other platforms.

Combustion of fossil fuels releases pollutants like nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which react in the presence of sunlight to form ozone. North American emissions contribute to global ozone levels, but the researchers did not find any evidence that these local emissions are driving the increasing trend in ozone above western North America.

Cooper and colleagues from NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., and eight other research institutes used historical data of global atmospheric wind records and sophisticated computer modeling to match each ozone measurement with air-flow patterns for several days before it was recorded. This approach essentially let the scientists track ozone-producing emissions back to a broad region of origin.

This method is like imagining a box full of 40,000 tiny weightless balls at the exact location of each ozone measurement, explained Cooper. Considering winds in the days prior to the measurement, the computer model estimates which winds brought the balls to that spot and where they originated.

When the dominant airflow came from south and east Asia, the scientists saw the largest increases in ozone measurements. When airflow patterns were not directly from Asia, ozone still increased but at a lower rate, indicating the possibility that emissions from other places could be contributing to the ozone increases above North America. The study used springtime ozone measurements because previous studies have shown that air transport from Asia to North America is strongest in spring, making it easier to discern possible effects of distant pollution on the North American ozone trends.

Ozone-measuring research balloons and research aircraft collected a portion of the data. Commercial flights equipped with ozone measuring instruments also collected a large share of the data through the MOZAIC program, initiated by European scientists in 1994. The bulk of the data was collected between 1995 and 2008, but the team also included a large ozone dataset from 1984.

The analysis shows an overall significant increase in springtime ozone of 14 percent from 1995 to 2008. When they included data from 1984, the year with the lowest average ozone level, the scientists saw a similar rate of increase from that time through 2008 and an overall increase in springtime ozone of 29 percent.

“This study did not quantify how much of the ozone increase is solely due to Asia,” Cooper said. “But we can say that the background ozone entering North America increased over the past 14 years and probably over the past 25 years.”

The influence of ozone from Asia and other sources on ground-level air quality is a question for further study, Cooper said. Scientists will need to routinely measure ozone levels close to the surface at several locations along the West Coast to see whether similar trends are impacting ground-level air quality.

Collaborating institutions include the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, the National Center of Scientific Research Midi-Pyrenees Observatory in Toulouse, France; the Meteorological Service of Canada; NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology; the University of Washington; the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colo.; and NASA’s Langley Research Center. The MOZAIC program is supported by the European Communities, EADS, Airbus and the airlines (Lufthansa, Austrian, Air France) who have carried MOZAIC equipment free of charge since 1994.
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Part of the study: Foliage Spoilage & the Trees’ Canopy Collapse

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Global Warming: 2009 Fifth Hottest

US Department Of Energy
Global Temperatures in 2009 Tied with 2006 as Fifth Warmest on Record

The tally of global land and ocean surface temperatures for 2009 places it in a tie with 2006 as the fifth warmest year on record, according to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Ocean surface temperatures were 0.86°F above the 20th century average, which put them in a tie with 2002 and 2004 as the fourth warmest on record. Land surface temperatures averaged 1.39°F above the 20th century average, tying with 2003 as the seventh warmest on record. Combining the two yielded an average global surface temperature that was 1.01°F above the 20th century average. Perhaps more significantly, the decade of 2000 through 2009 was the warmest on record, with an average global surface temperature of 0.96°F above the 20th century average. For comparison, the 1990s was the next warmest decade, at 0.65°F above the 20th century average. See the full details of the 2009 global temperature trends on the NCDC Web site.

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Environmental Justice Initiative in Camden, N.J.

Highlighting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) commitment to ensuring that everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, the people of Camden, N.J. will be receiving an important environmental information tool put together by the Heart of Camden, a local community-based organization, to help them better understand environmental conditions in their community. Thanks to an environmental justice grant from EPA, Heart of Camden will collect and analyze environmental and health data and match it up with geographic information related to the neighborhoods of Waterfront South and South-Central Camden to create an online tool. The software will be designed to build the community’s awareness and knowledge of exposure to a variety of contaminated sites and pollution sources found in the area. EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck was joined at today’s announcement by the Mayor of Camden, Dana L. Redd and the Heart of Camden’s Executive Director Helene Pierson.

“This project will go a long way toward helping the people of Camden identify specific environmental and health risks within South-Central Camden so that its residents can more fully participate in decisions that impact their health and the local environment,” said Judith Enck. “We are here to make sure that all communities are equally protected from environmental hazards. Our partnerships with Heart of Camden and the City of Camden will help inform the local community with the facts needed to combat environmental health hazards where people live and work.”

Heart of Camden Executive Director Helene Pierson thanked the EPA and said, “Over the past decade, there have been many reports suggesting that residents in our town have higher health risks due to environmental issues, but up to this point, such studies have been limited in focus. This initiative will provide a comprehensive evaluation of all available existing data on environmental exposure and their potential health risks so that we can get to work on the most pressing issues to have the greatest impact on improving air quality in the future. We are pleased to have available some of expertise at Cooper University Hospital and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in assisting us with this project.”

Using EPA funding, the Heart of Camden is in the process of developing a comprehensive environmental health information tool that covers emissions data, contaminated soil sites, and the status of pending air pollution mitigation and site remediation effort data. It will also provide a description of known and potential health effects related to the identified pollutants. In addition, the group will analyze and compare to other urban and suburban communities in New Jersey the rates at which people in the Waterfront and South-Central Camden communities visit the hospital, particularly for respiratory and cardiovascular disease.

Heart of Camden is dedicated to revitalizing the Waterfront South neighborhood through affordable housing, family and youth services and economic development. Their environmental efforts include addressing environmental issues in the area such as air pollution and the contamination of water and soil.

Just last year, EPA awarded approximately $800,000 in grants to organizations working with communities throughout the country facing environmental justice challenges. Forty grants, up to $20,000 each, went to community-based organizations and local and tribal governments in 28 states for community projects aimed at addressing environmental and public health issues. In the 15 years since initiating the environmental justice small grants program, EPA has awarded more than $20 million in funding to assist 1,130 community-based organizations and local and tribal governments.

Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income in the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.

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