Comparing the impact of meteorological variability on surface ozone during the NEAQS (2002) and ICARTT (2004) field campaigns

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Abstract

[1] This paper investigates linkages between weather, climate, and air quality that contributed to the large difference in the number of ozone exceedances encountered in the northeastern United States (U.S.) during 2002 and 2004. Major air quality research field campaigns were conducted in the northeast during July and August of each year. Both the 2002 New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS-02) and the International Consortium for Atmospheric Research on Transport and Transformation 2004 field study (ICARTT-04) had research components focused on regional air quality. The primary environmental difference between the two field campaigns was the underlying climatic conditions. The July–August period in 2002 was much sunnier, warmer, and drier than normal. In contrast, the July–August period in 2004 was cloudier, cooler, and much wetter than normal. We conclude that these extreme climatic conditions were the underlying cause for the significant difference in the number of ozone exceedances that occurred during NEAQS-02 and ICARTT-04. We rule out the impact of other meteorological processes as the primary cause of this difference. We gauge horizontal transport using surface and upper air wind observations collected on Appledore Island (ADI), off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine, along with back trajectories based solely on wind observations collected by profiler networks deployed for each study. The wind conditions that favor pollutant transport to the northeast were more prevalent in 2004 than in 2002, yet the number of ozone exceedances in 2004 was more than a factor of three less than in 2002. Neither was daytime boundary layer mixing the cause for this discrepancy. Unlike other parts of the U.S. where poor air quality is generally associated with shallow boundary layers, in New England the boundary layers were deeper on high-ozone days than on clean days because the same sunny, warm, and dry conditions that favor boundary layer ozone production also produce deeper boundary layers. Both field campaigns were synoptically active. Lulls in synoptic activity explained most of the high-ozone events observed in 2002, whereas even an extended lull in synoptic activity during the summer of 2004 did not produce a single high-ozone day.

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