Articles | Volume 15, issue 8
Research article
16 Apr 2015
Research article |  | 16 Apr 2015

Trends and drivers of ozone human health and vegetation impact metrics from UK EMEP supersite measurements (1990–2013)

C. S. Malley, M. R. Heal, G. Mills, and C. F. Braban

Abstract. Analyses have been undertaken of the spatial and temporal trends and drivers of the distributions of ground-level O3 concentrations associated with potential impacts on human health and vegetation using measurements at the two UK European Monitoring and Evaluation Program (EMEP) supersites of Harwell and Auchencorth. These two sites provide representation of rural O3 over the wider geographic areas of south-east England and northern UK respectively. The O3 exposures associated with health and vegetation impacts were quantified respectively by the SOMO10 and SOMO35 metrics and by the flux-based PODY metrics for wheat, potato, beech and Scots pine. Statistical analyses of measured O3 and NOx concentrations were supplemented by analyses of meteorological data and NOx emissions along air-mass back trajectories.

The findings highlight the differing responses of impact metrics to the decreasing contribution of regional O3 episodes in determining O3 concentrations at Harwell between 1990 and 2013, associated with European NOx emission reductions. An improvement in human health-relevant O3 exposure observed when calculated by SOMO35, which decreased significantly, was not observed when quantified by SOMO10. The decrease in SOMO35 is driven by decreases in regionally produced O3 which makes a larger contribution to SOMO35 than to SOMO10. For the O3 vegetation impacts at Harwell, no significant trend was observed for the PODY metrics of the four species, in contrast to the decreasing trend in vegetation-relevant O3 exposure perceived when calculated using the crop AOT40 metric. The decreases in regional O3 production have not decreased PODY as climatic and plant conditions reduced stomatal conductance and uptake of O3 during regional O3 production.

Ozone concentrations at Auchencorth (2007–2013) were more influenced by hemispheric background concentrations than at Harwell. For health-related O3 exposures this resulted in lower SOMO35 but similar SOMO10 compared with Harwell; for vegetation PODY values, this resulted in greater impacts at Auchencorth for vegetation types with lower exceedance ("Y") thresholds and longer growing seasons (i.e. beech and Scots pine). Additionally, during periods influenced by regional O3 production, a greater prevalence of plant conditions which enhance O3 uptake (such as higher soil water potential) at Auchencorth compared to Harwell resulted in exacerbation of vegetation impacts at Auchencorth, despite being further from O3 precursor emission sources.

These analyses indicate that quantifications of future improvement in health-relevant O3 exposure achievable from pan-European O3 mitigation strategies are highly dependent on the choice of O3 concentration cut-off threshold, and reduction in potential health impact associated with more modest O3 concentrations requires reductions in O3 precursors on a larger (hemispheric) spatial scale. Additionally, while further reduction in regional O3 is more likely to decrease O3 vegetation impacts within the spatial domain of Auchencorth compared to Harwell, larger reductions in vegetation impact could be achieved across the UK from reduction of hemispheric background O3 concentrations.

Short summary
Health- and vegetation-relevant ozone exposure metrics (SOMO10/SOMO35 and PODY/AOT40 respectively) are analysed between 1990 and 2013 using data from the UK EMEP supersites: Auchencorth Moss, southern Scotland and Harwell, south-east England. Analysis shows that for health-relevant ozone exposure, improvement has been achieved for SOMO35 but not for SOMO10 despite European mitigation strategies reducing precursor emissions. Vegetation impacts based on PODY have also not decreased.
Final-revised paper