Articles | Volume 16, issue 3
Research article
09 Feb 2016
Research article |  | 09 Feb 2016

How to most effectively expand the global surface ozone observing network

E. D. Sofen, D. Bowdalo, and M. J. Evans

Abstract. Surface ozone observations with modern instrumentation have been made around the world for more than 40 years. Some of these observations have been made as one-off activities with short-term, specific science objectives and some have been made as part of wider networks which have provided a foundational infrastructure of data collection, calibration, quality control, and dissemination. These observations provide a fundamental underpinning to our understanding of tropospheric chemistry, air quality policy, atmosphere–biosphere interactions, etc. brought together eight of these networks to provide a single data set of surface ozone observations. We investigate how representative this combined data set is of global surface ozone using the output from a global atmospheric chemistry model. We estimate that on an area basis, 25 % of the globe is observed (34 % land, 21 % ocean). Whereas Europe and North America have almost complete coverage, other continents, Africa, South America, Australia, and Asia (12–17 %) show significant gaps. Antarctica is surprisingly well observed (78 %). Little monitoring occurs over the oceans, with the tropical and southern oceans particularly poorly represented. The surface ozone over key biomes such as tropical forests and savanna is almost completely unmonitored. A chemical cluster analysis suggests that a significant number of observations are made of polluted air masses, but cleaner air masses whether over the land or ocean (especially again in the tropics) are significantly under-observed. The current network is unlikely to see the impact of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) but may be capable of detecting other planetary-scale signals. Model assessment and validation activities are hampered by a lack of observations in regions where the models differ substantially, as is the ability to monitor likely changes in surface ozone over the next century.

Using our methodology we are able to suggest new sites which would help to close the gap in our ability to measure global surface ozone. An additional 20 surface ozone monitoring sites (a 20 % increase in the World Meteorological Organization Global Atmosphere Watch (WMO GAW) ozone sites or a 1 % increase in the total background network) located on 10 islands and in 10 continental regions would almost double the area observed. The cost of this addition to the network is small compared to other expenditure on atmospheric composition research infrastructure and would provide a significant long-term benefit to our understanding of the composition of the atmosphere, information which will also be available for consideration by air quality control managers and policy makers.

Short summary
We explore the global representativeness of a global surface ozone data set from a range of perspectives (area, biomes, chemical regimes, model uncertainty, model trends). We conclude that the current network fails to provide sufficient constraints for important regions/regimes, leading to uncertainty for a range of atmospheric composition challenges. We suggest 20 new locations for making surface ozone observations, which would significantly enhance our observational capability.
Final-revised paper