Atmospheric Science

Detox Strategy for NOx and VOCs

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Science  09 Apr 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5668, pp. 173
DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5668.173b

Tropospheric ozone is a ubiquitous pollutant that is harmful to human health, crops, and ecosystems. The two main precursors of surface ozone are nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), but uncertainty about their precise roles in ozone production—mainly due to the lack of observational information—has prevented the development of more effective air pollution control strategies. Martin et al. report a technique with the potential to lessen this uncertainty, a space-based remote sensing method for measuring the ratio of tropo- spheric formaldehyde to nitrogen dioxide. This ratio is a good indicator of the relative sensitivity of surface ozone formation to emissions of NOx versus VOCs. They find that most of the Northern Hemisphere is more sensitive to NOx than to VOCs, with the exception of Los Angeles and the industrial areas of Germany. These results suggest that satellite remote sensing can contribute to air pollution management by revealing the spatial and temporal sensitivity of surface ozone production to reductions of NOx and VOC emissions. — HJS

Geophys. Res. Lett. 31, 10.1029/2004GL019416 (2004).

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