ICOZA: Integrated Chemistry of Ozone in the Atmosphere

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Sch of Chemistry


Tropospheric ozone is an important air pollutant, harmful to human health, agricultural crops and vegetation. It is the main precursor to the atmospheric oxidants which initiate the degradation of most reactive gases emitted to the atmosphere, and is an important greenhouse gas in its own right. As a consequence of this central role in atmospheric chemistry and air pollution, the capacity to understand, predict and manage tropospheric ozone levels is a key goal for atmospheric science research. This goal is hard to achieve, as ozone is a secondary pollutant, formed in the atmosphere from the complex oxidation of VOCs in the presence of NOx and sunlight, and the timescale of ozone production is such that a combination of in situ chemical processes, deposition and transport govern ozone levels. Uncertainties in all of these factors affect the accuracy of numerical models used to predict current and future ozone levels, and so hinder development of optimal air quality policies to mitigate ozone exposure. Here, we will address this problem by measuring the local chemical ozone production rate, and (for the first time) perform measurements of the response of the local atmospheric ozone production rate to NOx and VOC levels - directly determining the ozone production regime.

We will achieve this aim by building upon an existing instrument for the measurement of atmospheric ozone production rates (funded through a NERC Technology Proof-of-Concept grant, and deployed in the recent ClearfLo "Clean Air for London" NERC Urban Atmospheric Science programme). In addition to directly measuring ozone production, by perturbing the ambient chemical conditions (for example, through addition of NOx or VOCs to the sampled airflow), and measuring the effect of this change upon the measured ozone production rate, the ozone control regime (extent of NOx vs VOC limitation) may be directly determined. Within this project, we will develop our existing ozone production instrument to include this capability, and validate the measurements, through comparison with ozone production from VOC oxidation in a large simulation chamber, and by measurement of the key oxidant OH radicals, and their precursors, within the system.

We will then apply the instrument to compare the measured ozone production rates with those calculated using other observational and model approaches, and to characterise the ozone control regime, in two contrasting environments: In the outflow of a European megacity (at Weybourne Atmospheric Observatory, WAO, in the UK), and in a rural continental location (at Hohenpeissenberg, HPB, in southern Germany). At WAO, we will compare the measured ozone production rate with that calculated through co-located measurements of HO2 and RO2 radicals (using a newly developed approach to distinguish between these closely related species), and with that simulated using a constrained photochemical box model. We will compare the NOx-dependence of the ozone production rate with that predicted using indicator approaches, based upon observations of other chemical species. At HPB, we will focus upon the VOC-dependence of the ozone production rate, and assess the error in model predictions of ozone production, which arise from the presence of unmeasured VOCs.

The project will develop and demonstrate a new measurement approach, and apply this to improve our understanding of a fundamental aspect of atmospheric chemical processing. Future applications have considerable potential both to support atmospheric science research, but also as an important air quality tool, alongside existing measurement and modelling approaches, to inform the most effective emission controls to reduce ozone production in a given location. In the context of global crop yield reductions arising from ozone exposure of 7 - 12 % (wheat), 6 - 16 % (soybean) and 3 - 4 % (rice), this is an important societal as well as scientific goal.

Planned Impact

The project will deliver new scientific insight into our current understanding of atmospheric ozone formation, and quantify the systematic errors present in model predictions of ozone formation from unmeasured species and/or incomplete chemical understanding. It will also provide a new measurement capability to quantify local ozone production rates, and to directly establish the prevailing ozone control regime. Accordingly we identify two key groups of immediate beneficiaries

-Research scientists studying all aspects of atmospheric ozone chemistry, and impacts of ozone upon climate, vegetation and human health.
-The air quality community, and policy makers involved in the development and formulation of air pollution control measures.

We will ensure the impact of the project to these groups is maximised through the following specific activities, alongside traditional dissemination routes (conferences, journal publications) :

(1) Direct liaison with the relevant atmospheric science research community, leveraging the PIs ongoing links to a range of relevant projects and groupings such as NCAS, TF HTAP
(2) Direct dissemination of the project results, and new measurement capability, to the Air Quality community, through our links to bodies such as AQEG
(3) By holding a focussed discussion workshop on the topic of "Local Chemical Ozone Production" disseminate the project science outcomes, leading to the preparation of a position paper reviewing the state of our understanding in this area.
(4) By convening a forum for the knowledge exchange over capabilities and needs in atmospheric measurement, between the atmospheric science research community, air quality monitoring practitioners, and those at the interface between atmospheric research and air quality policy, supported by the IAQM and learned societies.

Wider Beneficiaries: Scientific Community; General Public
The research proposed here will lead, both directly and through improved general scientific understanding, to improved ozone control strategies / policies. This will benefit the general public, as tropospheric ozone is a key pollutant, harmful to health, reducing crop yields, damaging materials and contributing to climate change. The outcomes of this work will therefore address two of the key RCUK definitions of impact, namely "increasing the effectiveness of public policy" and "enhancing quality of life and health".
Description OH concentration measurements are robust - we confirmed this by showing the absence of any interferences
OH concentrations in the summer time in the UK coastal region are significant, sometimes up to 10^7 molecule cm^-3
Ozone concentrations reach 100 ppb during a heatwave period
Methodology to measure total RO2 and speciated RO2 was deployed successfully
In situ chemistry capable of generating significant ozone, even for rural locations under some conditions. Model comparisons now performed - variable agreement.
Detailed understanding of the budgets of the main radical species which control the level of pollutants, for example ozone, which was seen to be generated at this location.
Exploitation Route Modellers can use the radical data as targets.
Example of a model being used to calculate ozone production (greenhouse gas and pollutant) - which can validated through field measurements.
Sectors Environment

URL http://www.atmos.bham.ac.uk/icoza.htm
Description Invited Seminar (CalTech) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited Seminar at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California. I included the results from AIRPRO in my talk.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description School visits (Greenhead College, Dulwich College, Titus Salt College, Royal Latin College, Brighton College/Burgess Hill) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact I give several talks per year at Schools all around the country. Also, some schools come to Chemistry at Leeds University for visits. In each case the talks are illustrated with results from my NERC funded research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017
Description We are running a public engagement event looking at the air pollution along popular cycle routes from Headingley to the University. This will involve creating a video of a daily commute and the air pollution levels experienced. This is part of the NERC funded "Making the Invisible Visible" project. (http://www.nerc.ac.uk/latest/news/nerc/funded-pe-projects/) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Dear all,

We are running a public engagement event looking at the air pollution along popular cycle routes from Headingley to the University. This will involve creating a video of a daily commute and the air pollution levels experienced. This is part of the NERC funded "Making the Invisible Visible" project. (http://www.nerc.ac.uk/latest/news/nerc/funded-pe-projects/)

We are looking for a couple of volunteer cyclists who already regularly cycle to University from the Headingley area. We would need you to carry a backpack-mounted PM monitor and a go pro camera (which will be fixed to the bike) during a morning commute for a few days in the next couple of weeks. We will provide the equipment and a hi-vis jacket, but need you to have a helmet and front and rear bike lights.

Robert Woodward-Massey, a PhD student who is involved with ICOZA, was involved in this study
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.nerc.ac.uk/latest/news/nerc/funded-pe-projects/