This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this website you are agreeing to our use of cookies. 


Logo of the National Environment Research Council (NERC)

ICOZA - Integrated Chemistry of Ozone in the Atmosphere

Status: ongoing
Publication State: published


The ICOZA (Integrated Chemistry of Ozone in the Atmosphere) project was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) with the grant references; NE/K012169/1, NE/K012398/1 and NE/K012029/1. The grants were led by Dr William Bloss (University of Birmingham), Professor Claire Reeves (University of East Anglia) and Professor Dwayne Ellis Heard (University of Leeds) respectively.

Tropospheric ozone is an important air pollutant, harmful to human health, agricultural crops and vegetation. It is the main precursor to the atmospheric oxidants which initiate the degradation of most reactive gases emitted to the atmosphere, and is an important greenhouse gas in its own right. As a consequence of this central role in atmospheric chemistry and air pollution, the capacity to understand, predict and manage tropospheric ozone levels is a key goal for atmospheric science research. This goal is hard to achieve, as ozone is a secondary pollutant, formed in the atmosphere from the complex oxidation of VOCs in the presence of NOx and sunlight, and the timescale of ozone production is such that a combination of in situ chemical processes, deposition and transport govern ozone levels. Uncertainties in all of these factors affect the accuracy of numerical models used to predict current and future ozone levels, and so hinder development of optimal air quality policies to mitigate ozone exposure. The project addressed this problem by measuring the local chemical ozone production rate, and (for the first time) perform measurements of the response of the local atmospheric ozone production rate to NOx and VOC levels - directly determining the ozone production regime.

The project aimed to achieve this by building upon an existing instrument for the measurement of atmospheric ozone production rates (funded through a NERC Technology Proof-of-Concept grant, and deployed in the recent ClearfLo 'Clean Air for London' NERC Urban Atmospheric Science programme). In addition to directly measuring ozone production, by perturbing the ambient chemical conditions (for example, through addition of NOx or VOCs to the sampled airflow), and measuring the effect of this change upon the measured ozone production rate, the ozone control regime (extent of NOx vs VOC limitation) may be directly determined. Within the project, they developed an existing ozone production instrument to include this capability, and validated the measurements, through comparison with ozone production from VOC oxidation in a large simulation chamber, and by measurement of the key oxidant OH radicals, and their precursors, within the system.

ICOZA then applied the instrument to compare the measured ozone production rates with those calculated using other observational and model approaches, and to characterise the ozone control regime, in two contrasting environments: In the outflow of a European megacity (at Weybourne Atmospheric Observatory, WAO, in the UK), and in a rural continental location (at Hohenpeissenberg, HPB, in southern Germany). At WAO, the project compared the measured ozone production rate with that calculated through co-located measurements of HO2 and RO2 radicals (using a newly developed approach to distinguish between these closely related species), and with that simulated using a constrained photochemical box model. They then compared the NOx-dependence of the ozone production rate with that predicted using indicator approaches, based upon observations of other chemical species. At HPB, they focused upon the VOC-dependence of the ozone production rate, and assess the error in model predictions of ozone production, which arise from the presence of unmeasured VOCs.

The project developed and demonstrated a new measurement approach, and applied this to improve the understanding of a fundamental aspect of atmospheric chemical processing. Future applications have considerable potential both to support atmospheric science research, but also as an important air quality tool, alongside existing measurement and modelling approaches, to inform the most effective emission controls to reduce ozone production in a given location. In the context of global crop yield reductions arising from ozone exposure of 7 - 12 % (wheat), 6 - 16 % (soybean) and 3 - 4 % (rice), this is an important societal as well as scientific impact.

The aim of the ICOZA project was to develop, refine and apply in situ measurements of the local chemical ozone production rate and its response to NOx and VOC levels. They aimed to assess the accuracy of model predictions of ozone production rates, and the systematic errors which arises from the presence of unmeasured species and/or limitations in our understanding of the atmospheric chemistry, through field observations in two contrasting environments.

The specific objectives were :

1. To establish and validate the Perturbed Ozone Production Rate (POPR) concept, through laboratory development and simulation chamber testing

2. To compare the directly measured ozone production rate with that calculated from measured peroxy radical abundance, and deduced from photochemical model predictions.

3. To characterise the local ozone control regime in the contrasting environments of the outflow from a European megacity, and a continental rural location, for comparison with indicator approaches and zero dimensional photochemical model predictions

4. To quantify the error in model-derived dP(O3)/d[VOC] due to unmeasured VOCs, and explore the scope for empirical determination of an expression for the chemical ozone production term, as a computationally cheap integration of tropospheric ozone chemistry.

Abbreviation: Not defined
Keywords: Ozone, VOC, NOx, Tropospheric ozone chemistry