Articles | Volume 15, issue 17
Research article
01 Sep 2015
Research article |  | 01 Sep 2015

Trends in concentrations of atmospheric gaseous and particulate species in rural eastern Tennessee as related to primary emission reductions

R. L. Tanner, S. T. Bairai, and S. F. Mueller

Abstract. Air quality measurements at Look Rock, Tennessee – on the western edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – were begun in 1980 and expanded during the 1980s to a National Park Service (NPS) IMPROVE network station. Measurements were expanded again by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA, 1999–2007) to examine the effects of electric generating unit (EGU) emission reductions of SO2 and NOx on air quality at the station. Analysis of temporal trends (1999–2013) has been conducted at the site in collaboration with activities related to the 2013 Southeast Atmosphere Study (SAS) at Look Rock and other southeastern US locations.

Key findings from these trend studies include the observation that primary pollutant levels have consistently tracked emission reductions from EGUs and other primary sources in the region, but reductions in secondary pollutants such as particulate sulfate and, specifically, ozone have been smaller compared to reductions in primary emissions. Organic carbonaceous material (OM) remains a major contributor (30–40 % in the period 2009–2013) to fine particulate mass at the site, as confirmed by ACSM measurements at the site in 2013. A large portion (65–85 %) of carbon in OM derives from modern carbon sources based on 14C measurements. Important parameters affecting ozone levels, fine mass, and visibility also include the specific diurnal meteorology at this ridge-top site, its location in a predominantly mixed-deciduous forest, and the presence of primary sources of precursors at distances of 50–500 km from the site in all directions.

Final-revised paper