Articles | Volume 14, issue 4
Research article
17 Feb 2014
Research article |  | 17 Feb 2014

Multi-year objective analyses of warm season ground-level ozone and PM2.5 over North America using real-time observations and Canadian operational air quality models

A. Robichaud and R. Ménard

Abstract. Multi-year objective analyses (OA) on a high spatiotemporal resolution for the warm season period (1 May to 31 October) for ground-level ozone and for fine particulate matter (diameter less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5)) are presented. The OA used in this study combines model outputs from the Canadian air quality forecast suite with US and Canadian observations from various air quality surface monitoring networks. The analyses are based on an optimal interpolation (OI) with capabilities for adaptive error statistics for ozone and PM2.5 and an explicit bias correction scheme for the PM2.5 analyses. The estimation of error statistics has been computed using a modified version of the Hollingsworth–Lönnberg (H–L) method. The error statistics are "tuned" using a χ2 (chi-square) diagnostic, a semi-empirical procedure that provides significantly better verification than without tuning. Successful cross-validation experiments were performed with an OA setup using 90% of data observations to build the objective analyses and with the remainder left out as an independent set of data for verification purposes. Furthermore, comparisons with other external sources of information (global models and PM2.5 satellite surface-derived or ground-based measurements) show reasonable agreement. The multi-year analyses obtained provide relatively high precision with an absolute yearly averaged systematic error of less than 0.6 ppbv (parts per billion by volume) and 0.7 μg m−3 (micrograms per cubic meter) for ozone and PM2.5, respectively, and a random error generally less than 9 ppbv for ozone and under 12 μg m−3 for PM2.5. This paper focuses on two applications: (1) presenting long-term averages of OA and analysis increments as a form of summer climatology; and (2) analyzing long-term (decadal) trends and inter-annual fluctuations using OA outputs. The results show that high percentiles of ozone and PM2.5 were both following a general decreasing trend in North America, with the eastern part of the United States showing the most widespread decrease, likely due to more effective pollution controls. Some locations, however, exhibited an increasing trend in the mean ozone and PM2.5, such as the northwestern part of North America (northwest US and Alberta). Conversely, the low percentiles are generally rising for ozone, which may be linked to the intercontinental transport of increased emissions from emerging countries. After removing the decadal trend, the inter-annual fluctuations of the high percentiles are largely explained by the temperature fluctuations for ozone and to a lesser extent by precipitation fluctuations for PM2.5. More interesting is the economic short-term change (as expressed by the variation of the US gross domestic product growth rate), which explains 37% of the total variance of inter-annual fluctuations of PM2.5 and 15% in the case of ozone.

Final-revised paper