Air quality and atmospheric deposition in the eastern US: 20 years of change
Abstract. Data collected in the eastern US between 1990 and 2009 at 34 paired dry and wet monitoring sites are examined. A goal is to evaluate the air quality impacts occurring between 1990 and 2009 that are associated with concurrent legislatively mandated changes in emissions. Four 5-year periods, 1990–1994 (P1), 1995–1999 (P2), 2000–2004 (P3), and 2005–2009 (P4) are considered, with a primary focus on P1-to-P4 changes. Results suggest that legislatively mandated air pollution mitigation strategies have been successful in improving air quality and reducing atmospheric deposition in the eastern US.
Respective P1-to-P4 reductions of estimated sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions in the eastern US are 50 and 42%. Corresponding behavior of the following metrics associated with these emissions reductions is examined: monitored atmospheric concentrations of SO2, aerosol sulfate (SO4), and oxidized sulfur (S); dry, wet, and total deposition of S; monitored atmospheric concentrations of nitric acid (HNO3), aerosol nitrate (NO3), and their sum, oxidized nitrogen (OxN); dry, wet, and total deposition of OxN; monitored atmospheric concentration of aerosol ammonium (NH4); dry, wet, and total deposition of NH4; summed monitored atmospheric concentration of oxidized and reduced nitrogen (N); dry, wet, and total deposition of N; wet deposition of hydrogen ion (H+); monitored atmospheric concentration of ozone (O3); dry deposition of O3; and the summed monitored atmospheric concentration of aerosol NO3, SO4, and NH4 (Clean Air Status and Trends Network particulate matter – CASTNET PM). Other metrics (e.g., ratios of dry to total deposition) are also considered.
Selected period-to-period changes of air quality and deposition metrics at site, regional, and seasonal scales are discussed. As an example, despite P1-to-P3 reductions in estimated emissions of both SO2 and NOx, aerosol NO3 concentration increased in the east, with widespread wintertime numerical increases in both aerosol NO3 concentration and CASTNET PM. However, a reversal of this behavior is associated with continuing P3-to-P4 reductions of SO2 and NOx emissions. Thus, additional P3-to-P4 reductions of these emissions, especially NOx, appear to have made progress in altering the chemical regime of the wintertime eastern US atmosphere so that future emissions reductions and their resulting reductions in aerosol concentrations may no longer be accompanied by sub-linear changes (or actual increases) in CASTNET PM.