Ozone studies in the Paso del Norte region

Fernando Becerra-Davila, University of Texas at El Paso


The Paso del Norte region forms the largest contiguous bi-national conglomerate on the US-Mexico border. With a combined population of around 2 million inhabitants, the Paso del Norte region is isolated, more than 500 km away from the nearest urban area of comparable size, thus making it an ideal location for air quality studies of an isolated urban environment. ^ The meteorological conditions leading to a high ozone episode in this region, such as the historical ozone episode of June 2006, are analyzed. It is well known that stagnation and minimal winds, high temperatures, and pressure ridges over the region are conducive to high ozone episodes. In addition, the planetary boundary height is studied to understand its impact on high ozone episodes. Several studies report that ground level ozone non-attainment regulations could be caused not only by local emissions, but also by atmospheric transport. In this work the atmospheric advection of pollutants into the region is analyzed using HYSPLIT backward trajectories. Furthermore, a novel backward trajectory clustering technique is implemented for the summer of 2006. ^ The "ozone weekend effect" (OWE) is a phenomenon by which in some geographical regions ambient ozone concentrations tend to be higher on weekends than on weekdays, despite the lower emissions of ozone precursors during those days. The observed local OWE has never previously been studied in terms of the photolysis rates of four of the main ozone precursors. In this research a novel method that allows the calculation of actinic fluxes, photolysis frequencies and photolysis rates with a high degree of accuracy and reliability has been developed. This method utilizes a combination of the experimental data available for this region in conjunction with a radiative transfer model (TUV model). Three weekend-weekday cases during summers 2006, 2009 and 2010 are studied in this work. In this research, the photolysis impact on the local OWE is studied. The results obtained from this photolysis study demonstrate that the local ground level ozone formation is not only influenced by the strong solar radiation and changing aerosol makeup, but also by other heterogeneous factors and reactions. ^ In addition, this research provided good evidence that the ground level ozone precursor regime in El Paso during the ozone episode of June 2006 was mostly VOC-limited. Much of this estimation was derived from measurements of local ambient VOC/NOx ratios. This finding shows that at least during June 2006, the non-linear surface ozone production increased during weekends compared to workdays in a habitually VOC-limited regime. ^ The seasonal variations of columnar ozone as measured by a Multi-filter Rotating Shadowband instrument installed at the UTEP campus are analyzed for the first time for this region and results are presented. ^ This investigation has addressed the problem of ground-level ozone formation in the Paso del Norte region. Urban ozone is a complex problem with many aspects that are not fully understood. In this investigation, a range of techniques has been used to address the study of local surface ozone episodes with the purpose of acquiring new insights and knowledge that will help understand and remediate the diverse atmospheric pollution events that affect this bi-national region recurrently. Innovative techniques were developed and used, ranging from the use of local ambient atmospheric pollution data to the utilization of complex modeling techniques to achieve the best possible computer results. Finally, the influence of ground level ozone concentrations in admissions to hospitals for this region due to respiratory diseases is analyzed. ^ The comprehensive results obtained in this work will help to better understand ozone formation in the Paso del Norte Region for future policy regulation implementations.^

Subject Area

Engineering, General|Atmospheric Sciences|Environmental Sciences

Recommended Citation

Becerra-Davila, Fernando, "Ozone studies in the Paso del Norte region" (2012). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3552240.