Air Pollution Response to Changing Weather and Power Plant Emissions in the Eastern United States

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Air pollution in the eastern United States causes human sickness and death as well as damage to crops and materials. NOX emission reduction is observed to improve air quality. Effectively reducing pollution in the future requires understanding the connections between smog, precursor emissions, weather, and climate change.

 	Numerical models predict global warming will exacerbate smog over the next 50 years.  My analysis of 21 years of CASTNET observations quantifies a climate change penalty.  I calculate, for data collected prior to 2002, a climate penalty factor of ~3.3 ppb O3/°C across the power plant dominated receptor regions in the rural, eastern U.S.  Recent reductions in NOX emissions decreased the climate penalty factor to ~2.2 ppb O3/°C. 

Prior to 1995, power plant emissions of CO2, SO2, and NOX were estimated with fuel sampling and analysis methods.  Currently, emissions are measured with continuous monitoring equipment (CEMS) installed directly in stacks.  My comparison of the two methods show CO2 and SO2 emissions are ~5% lower when inferred from fuel sampling; greater differences are found for NOX emissions. CEMS are the method of choice for emission inventories and commodity trading and should be the standard against which other methods are evaluated for global greenhouse gas trading policies.

I used CEMS data and applied chemistry transport modeling to evaluate improvements in air quality observed by aircraft during the North American electrical blackout of 2003.  An air quality model produced substantial reductions in O3, but not as much as observed.  The study highlights weaknesses in the model as commonly used for evaluating a single day event and suggests areas for further investigation.

A new analysis and visualization method quantifies local-daily to hemispheric-seasonal scale relationships between weather and air pollution, confirming improved air quality despite increasing temperatures across the eastern U.S. Climate penalty factors indicate amplified smog formation in areas of the world with rising temperatures and increasing emissions.   Tools developed in this dissertation provide data for model evaluation and methods for establishing air quality standards with an adequate margin of safety for cleaning the air and protecting the public's health in a world with changing climate.