NOAA 99-R513
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jana Goldman
7/9/99

SCIENTISTS STUDY AIR QUALITY AROUND GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS

Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with researchers from other federal agencies and universities, will begin an intensive program this month to monitor the level of ozone in the air in the region of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States.

The intent is to identify factors causing recent ozone increases, so that ozone forecasts can be refined and remedial strategies developed.

About a dozen additional meteorological stations, which include continuously operating ozone monitors, will be installed for the first phase of the East Tennessee Ozone Study (ETOS). Phase One will explore the distribution of high ozone levels. Next year, Phase Two will focus on improving the reliability of ozone forecasts.

Last year, the region had more than forty days of public warnings; so far, in 1999, there have been eight days with ozone concentrations that required public warnings. These warnings, issued by the National Park Service, are especially meaningful for persons with respiratory illnesses or asthma, and the elderly. Also, those planning strenuous activity, such as hiking at high altitudes, are alerted when the ozone level is high.

"Over the East Tennessee Valley a persistent pool of ozone-producing trace gases remains aloft; this reservoir of air pollution has a strong impact on higher elevations. Ozone generated by photochemistry acting on both man-made and natural emissions can be of either distant or local origin," said Will Pendergrass, a research scientist with the Air Resources Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn. "Equally important to local ozone production, if not more, is the ozone transported into east Tennessee by winds aloft from surrounding regions. ETOS will examine the relative contributions of regional transport, manmade, and natural emissions on ozone in the East Tennessee Valley."

The monitors to be installed this month will enhance an existing network operated by the air pollution departments of county and state governments. The current network monitors major population areas, while the additional stations installed by NOAA will be placed in mostly rural areas and within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to provide more detailed coverage. The team hopes to collect additional data using NOAA aircraft.

Concerned about the high levels of ozone and its impact on the health of those in the area, NOAA's Air Resources Laboratory/Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division, began working with the National Park Service, the State of Tennessee, the University of Tennessee, East Tennessee State University, Knox County Air Pollution Control Department, and the Chattanooga-Hamilton Air Pollution Control Board to develop an ozone forecasting tool to feed into the decision-making process that is required of local governments.

Researchers hope that the information they collect will determine if proposed new local control measures and emissions restrictions will reduce local ozone concentrations, or if changes must be enacted on a broader scale.