Clean air is important to our respiratory health. Unfortunately, some areas in Utah often observe unhealthy levels of ozone pollution. While ozone occurs naturally in the upper atmosphere and absorbs harmful ultraviolet radiation, smog-forming ozone created near the surface by other pollutants in the presence of sunlight poses a danger to human’s respiratory health.
This summer a team of atmospheric science students and professors at the University of Utah, Weber State, and Utah State worked together with Utah’s Division of Air Quality to understand how the Great Salt Lake influences ozone concentrations in Northern Utah. The purpose of the Great Salt Lake Summer Ozone Study is to better understand the generation and transport of ozone pollution in northern Utah, particularly areas around the Great Salt Lake.
To accomplish this, graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Utah participated in three intensive observation periods in which ozone levels and weather conditions were measured around the lake. Ozone monitors are installed on a UTA TRAX train, the KSL helicopter, and over twenty-five stationary sites which collected ozone and weather information all summer. Other mobile observations were made from trucks and the University’s “Nerdmobile” while driving routes around the Great Salt Lake. Preliminary analysis of the data collected has already shown interesting trends in ozone concentration around the lake. With this many observations researchers can understand how ozone concentrations change over a day and where the highest levels of ozone occur. This new knowledge will be used to improve air quality forecasts.