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Analyse the spatial and temporal dimensions of the formation of ground level ozone pollution.

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Introduction

Analyse the spatial and temporal dimensions of the formation of ground level ozone pollution. People often associate ozone as being a layer in the stratosphere, which absorbs dangerous UV rays that can cause cancer and that we are, by burning fossil fuels and releasing gases into the air with unknown consequences, creating a hole in this layer. This stratospheric layer is thought of as "good ozone". But ozone can exist at ground level as well which is thought of as "bad ozone". This ground level (or troposhperic) ozone has the exact same chemical make up as stratospheric ozone, which is hazardous to human health and so at ground level, can become very dangerous (Brimblecombe and Maynard, 2001). Another more common name for this form of pollution is smog, a word that brings harrowing memories of the 4000 deaths attributed to smog in the 1952 episode. This essay will attempt to analyse the formation of troposhperic ozone pollution through time and space along with its variables and a number of case studies to illustrate the causes and effects of such events. Firstly, what exactly is ozone? It is an odourless, colourless gas that, as has already been established, occurs in two layers of the atmosphere. The stratosphere (approximately 9 to 18 miles up) and the troposphere (ground level to 9 miles up) (www.tnrcc.state.tx.us). Unlike stratospheric ozone, tropospheric ozone is not naturally created. It has the same chemical structure (O3) but can sometimes undergo photochemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) ...read more.

Middle

It has been known for winds to carry ozone and the pollutants that form it hundreds of miles from its original source toxic (http://k12science.ati.stevens-tech.edu). This process is called transport. But even if there are NOx and VOCs present, tropospheric ozone needs the right weather conditions to form. The largest and undoubtedly most famous smog event was the 1952 smog in London. The weather in London on December 4th 1952 was anti-cyclonic (www.doc.mmu.ac.uk) and a fog began to form. It had also been colder than average and people had been burning more fuel (www.met-office.gov.uk) all the ingredients for a disastrous smog. The smog lasted for five days and is said to have killed anywhere between 4000 and 12,000 people. The graph below shows deaths that occurred per day against the smoke and sulphur dioxide rates. As it can be seen from the graph, even after the smog had cleared, people were continuing to die from diseases such as pneumonia and bronchitis. The great London smog led to the establishment of the 1956 clean air act. Although it didn't pun an immediate end to smog events, it pushed down the levels of emissions and now the thick "pea-soup" smog events of the past no longer occur in London. Another place in particular that suffers heavily from ground level ozone pollution is Ontario, Canada. Smog events in Ontario can blanket large areas, both urban and rural for several days and in the summer months; ozone concentrations often greatly exceed the maximum acceptable air quality in the most populated areas. ...read more.

Conclusion

There is a very complex relationship in terms of the spatial and temporal dimensions of the formation of ground level ozone pollution. The right ingredients do not necessarily have to be present in the same place as they can be transported by the wind to cause problems in other areas as in the Ontario case. There is one major limit however and that is that smog can only form in times when sunlight is present because the reaction that occurs between Nox and VOCs is photochemical. This is why these events are more likely to occur in the summer months. In a study conducted by Shaw and Griffis, they attempted to understand the relationship between ground level ozone and its adverse effects upon humans and crops from a meteorological perspective. They found that the maximum daily temperature is the single most important variable and that it was this that accounted for the largest percentage of variance. It is very difficult to completely eradicate this problem due to the transport factor. In London it was simpler as it was London's pollution that was causing the problems. In Ontario, it is US pollution that is being transported to cause problems and so some kind of international agreement needs to be made. This has shown in the past not to be as easy as it sounds. The US at the moment sees their economic wealth and growth to be at the forefront of their policies with the environment taking a back seat. The chances it seems that they would change their policy for another country appears to be very slim. ...read more.

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