Researchers tapped measurements from aircraft on international flights
In a first-ever study using ozone data collected by commercial aircraft, CIRES researchers found that levels of the pollutant in most parts of Earth’s atmosphere have increased across the Northern Hemisphere over the past 20 years. That’s even as tighter controls on emissions of ozone precursors have lowered ground-level ozone in some places, including North America and Europe.
Tropospheric ozone—ozone between Earth’s surface and 12-15 km above Earth—is a greenhouse gas and air pollutant that, at high levels, can harm people’s lungs and damage plants.
In research published today in the journal Science Advances, the team found an overall increase in ozone levels above the Northern Hemisphere. “That’s a big deal because it means that as we try to limit our pollution locally, it might not work as well as we thought,” said Audrey Gaudel, a CIRES scientist working in the NOAA Chemical Sciences Laboratory and the study’s lead author. She and her colleagues documented the greatest ozone increases in the tropics, Gaudel said, noting that ozone exported from the tropics may be driving increases above other areas of the Northern Hemisphere.
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