Changing precursor emission patterns in conjunction with stringent health protective air quality standards necessitate accurate quantification of nonlocal contributions to ozone pollution at a location due to atmospheric transport, that by nature predominantly occurs aloft nocturnally. Concerted efforts to characterize ozone aloft on a continuous basis to quantify its contribution to ground-level concentrations, however, are lacking. By applying our classical understanding of air pollution dynamics to analyze variations in widespread surface-level ozone measurements, in conjunction with process-based interpretation from a comprehensive air pollution modeling system and detailed backward-sensitivity calculations that quantitatively link surface-level and aloft pollution, we show that accurate quantification of the amount of ozone in the air entrained from aloft every morning as the atmospheric boundary layer grows is the key missing component for characterizing background pollution at a location, and we propose a cost-effective continuous aloft ozone measurement strategy to address critical scientific gaps in current air quality management. Continuous aloft air pollution measurements can be achieved cost-effectively through leveraging advances in sensor technology and proliferation of tall telecommunications masts. Resultant improvements in ozone distribution characterization at 400-500 m altitude are estimated to be 3-4 times more effective in characterizing the surface-level daily maximum 8-h average ozone (DM8O3) than improvements from surface measurements since they directly quantify the amount of pollution imported to a location and furnish key missing information on processes and sources regulating background ozone and its modulation of ground-level concentrations. Since >80% of the DM8O3 sensitivity to tropospheric ozone is potentially captured through measurements between 200 and 1200 m altitude (a possible design goal for future remote sensing instrumentation), their assimilation will dramatically improve air quality forecast and health advisories.
Environmental Science and Technology
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Mathur, R. (Rohit), Hogrefe, C. (Christian), Hakami, A, Zhao, S. (Shunliu), Szykman, J. (James), & Hagler, G. (Gayle). (2018). A Call for an Aloft Air Quality Monitoring Network: Need, Feasibility, and Potential Value. Environmental Science and Technology. doi:10.1021/acs.est.8b02496