Articles | Volume 13, issue 20
Research article
29 Oct 2013
Research article |  | 29 Oct 2013

Exploring the nature of air quality over southwestern Ontario: main findings from the Border Air Quality and Meteorology Study

J. R. Brook, P. A. Makar, D. M. L. Sills, K. L. Hayden, and R. McLaren

Abstract. This paper serves as an overview and discusses the main findings from the Border Air Quality and Meteorology Study (BAQS-Met) in southwestern Ontario in 2007. This region is dominated by the Great Lakes, shares borders with the United States and consistently experiences the highest ozone (O3) and fine particulate matter concentrations in Canada. The purpose of BAQS-Met was to improve our understanding of how lake-driven meteorology impacts air quality in the region, and to improve models used for forecasting and policy scenarios. Results show that lake breeze occurrence frequencies and inland penetration distances were significantly greater than realized in the past. Due to their effect on local meteorology, the lakes were found to enhance secondary O3 and aerosol formation such that local anthropogenic emissions have their impact closer to the populated source areas than would otherwise occur in the absence of the lakes. Substantial spatial heterogeneity in O3 was observed with local peaks typically 30 ppb above the regional values. Sulfate and secondary organic aerosol (SOA) enhancements were also linked to local emissions being transported in the lake breeze circulations. This study included the first detailed evaluation of regional applications of a high-resolution (2.5 km grid) air quality model in the Great Lakes region. The model showed that maxima in secondary pollutants occur in areas of convergence, in localized updrafts and in distinct pockets over the lake surfaces. These effects are caused by lake circulations interacting with the synoptic flow, with each other or with circulations induced by urban heat islands. Biogenic and anthropogenic emissions were both shown to play a role in the formation of SOA in the region. Detailed particle measurements and multivariate receptor models reveal that while individual particles are internally mixed, they often exist within more complex external mixtures. This makes it difficult to predict aerosol optical properties and further highlights the challenges facing aerosol modelling. The BAQS-Met study has led to a better understanding of the value of high-resolution (2.5 km) modelling for air quality and meteorological predictions and has led to several model improvements.

Final-revised paper