Articles | Volume 15, issue 23
Research article
 | Highlight paper
10 Dec 2015
Research article | Highlight paper |  | 10 Dec 2015

Updated ozone absorption cross section will reduce air quality compliance

E. D. Sofen, M. J. Evans, and A. C. Lewis

Abstract. Photometric ozone measurements rely upon an accurate value of the ozone absorption cross section at 253.65 nm. This has recently been re-evaluated by Viallon et al. (2015) as 1.8 % smaller than the accepted value (Hearn, 1961) used for the preceding 50 years. Thus, ozone measurements that applied the older cross section systematically underestimate the amount of ozone in air. We correct the reported historical surface data from North America and Europe and find that this modest change in cross section has a significant impact on the number of locations that are out of compliance with air quality regulations if the air quality standards remain the same. We find 18, 23, and 20 % increases in the number of sites that are out of compliance with current US, Canadian, and European ozone air quality health standards for the year 2012. Should the new cross-section value be applied, it would impact attainment of air quality standards and compliance with relevant clean air acts, unless the air quality target values themselves were also changed proportionately. We draw attention to how a small change in gas metrology has a global impact on attainment and compliance with legal air quality standards. We suggest that further laboratory work to evaluate the new cross section is needed and suggest three possible technical and policy responses should the new cross section be adopted.

Short summary
As an air pollutant, O3 is monitored photometrically to assess compliance with air quality legislation. A recent study found a 1.8% reduction in its absorption cross section, which would lead to an equivalent increase in observed O3 concentrations. We estimate this would increase the number of sites out of compliance with air quality regulations in the EU and US by 20%. We draw attention to how small changes in gas metrology impacts attainment and compliance with legal air quality standards.
Final-revised paper