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Air Quality, Climate, and Policy: A Case Study of Ozone Pollution in Tucson, Arizona

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This article addresses the need to better understand the complex interactions between climate, human activities, vegetation responses, and surface ozone so that more informed air-quality policy recommendations can be made. The impacts of intraseasonal climate variations on ozone levels in Tucson, Arizona from April through September of 1995 to 1998 are determined by relating variations in ozone levels to variations in atmospheric conditions and emissions of ozone's precursor chemicals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), and by determining month-specific atmospheric conditions that are conducive to elevated ozone levels. Results show that the transport of ozone and its precursor chemicals within the Tucson area causes the highest ozone levels to be measured at a downwind monitor. The highest ozone levels occur in August, due in part to the presence of the North American monsoon. Atmospheric conditions conducive to elevated ozone concentrations differ substantially between the arid foresummer (May and June) and the core monsoon months ( July and August). Transport of pollution from Phoenix may have a substantial impact on elevated ozone concentrations during April, May, and June, while El Paso/Ciudad Juarez –derived pollution may contribute significantly to elevated ozone concentrations in August and September. Two broad policy implications derive from this work. Regional pollutant transport, both within the U.S. and between the U.S. and Mexico, is a potential issue that needs to be examined more intensively in future studies. In addition, spatiotemporal variations in sensitivities of ozone production require the adoption of both NOx and VOC control measures to reduce ozone levels in the Tucson area.

Keywords: Southwest; air pollution; climate; environmental policy; ozone

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Georgia State University, 2: The University of Arizona

Publication date: November 1, 2001


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