Claim: ‘The blob’ in the Pacific boosted Western US ozone levels

From the UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON

‘The blob’ of abnormal conditions boosted Western US ozone levels

An unusually warm patch of seawater off the West Coast in late 2014 and 2015, nicknamed “the blob,” had cascading effects up and down the coast. Its sphere of influence was centered on the marine environment but extended to weather on land.

A University of Washington Bothell study now shows that this strong offshore pattern also influenced air quality. The climate pattern increased ozone levels above Washington, Oregon, western Utah and northern California, according to a study published Feb. 15 in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

“Washington and Oregon was really the bullseye for the whole thing, because of the location of the winds,” said lead author Dan Jaffe, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington Bothell. “Salt Lake City and Sacramento were on the edge of this event, but because their ozone is typically higher, those cities felt some of the more acute effects.”

The other author is Lei Zhang, a postdoctoral researcher at UW Bothell.

The study finds that terrestrial effects of “the blob” — warm temperatures, low cloud cover and calmer air — were the perfect ingredients to produce ozone. Ozone levels in June 2015 were between 3 and 13 parts per billion higher than average over the northwestern United States. The pattern pushed concentrations in Salt Lake City and Sacramento above federally allowed limits.

Ozone is an invisible component of smog that is a secondary pollutant formed by a chain reaction. Cars, factories and other sources emit pollution into the atmosphere. Solar rays then provide the spark for chemical reactions that produce the three linked oxygen atoms of ozone. This molecule is hazardous to human health and is subject to federal regulations.

Jaffe’s research group has been measuring ozone since 2004 atop Mount Bachelor in central Oregon to tease apart the sources of ozone and other pollutants, such as forest fires, transport of pollution from overseas and domestic pollution from the United States. In June 2015, members noticed a spike in ozone above any previous measurements.

Top) The June 2015 measurement of ozone at the summit of Mount Bachelor (red dot) was significantly higher than any of the previous measurements. Middle) Differences from average ozone levels in June 2015, when "the blob" was creating unusual conditions along the West Coast. The star shows the location of Mount Bachelor Observatory. Bottom) Typical June ozone concentration across the US. CREDIT Dan Jaffe/University of Washington Bothell

Top) The June 2015 measurement of ozone at the summit of Mount Bachelor (red dot) was significantly higher than any of the previous measurements. Middle) Differences from average ozone levels in June 2015, when “the blob” was creating unusual conditions along the West Coast. The star shows the location of Mount Bachelor Observatory. Bottom) Typical June ozone concentration across the US. CREDIT Dan Jaffe/University of Washington Bothell

“At first we were like ‘Whoa, maybe we made a mistake.’ We looked at our sensors to see if we made an error in the calibration. But we couldn’t find any mistakes,” Jaffe said. “Then I looked at other ozone data from around the Pacific Northwest, and everybody was high that year.”

Jaffe’s measurements are from the University of Washington’s Mount Bachelor Observatory in central Oregon. Members of his group use the ski hill’s lifts for transportation and electrical power to support year-round measurements at the 9,000-foot peak. Air is pulled with vacuum pumps into a room to be sampled by a variety of instruments in the summit’s lift house.

The June 2015 ozone levels at the observatory were 12 parts per billion higher than the average of previous observations for that time. Jaffe learned that air quality managers in Sacramento and Salt Lake City had several times recorded eight-hour averages above the 70 parts per billion limit set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

“This was a very widespread phenomenon going all the way to California,” Jaffe said. “Managers saw that air quality was violating the air quality standards on many days, and they didn’t know why.”

The new study analyzes larger-scale climate data to show that the areas that recorded higher-than-normal ozone were the same regions that had high temperatures, weak winds and low cloud cover.

“Ultimately, it all links back to the blob, which was the most unusual meteorological event we’ve had in decades,” Jaffe said. “Temperatures were high, and it was much less cloudy than normal, both of which trigger ozone production. And because of that high-pressure system off the coast, the winds were much lower than normal. Winds blow pollution away, but when they don’t blow, you get stagnation and the pollution is higher.”

The paper also finds an effect from higher biogenic emissions, the scented emissions from trees and plants that contain natural ozone-producing particles.

The study focuses on June 2015 because the wildfire season began in July and dominated conditions in the later summer. Jaffe’s group is exploring that effect in a separate project.

While it is generally understood that warmer temperatures will favor ozone production, Jaffe said, this study suggests that broader-scale climate patterns also play a role in air quality and human health.

“Our environmental laws need to be written with an understanding that there’s a lot of variability from one year to the next, and with an understanding of the long-term path of where we’re heading under climate change,” Jaffe said. “This work helps us understand the link between climate variability and air quality, and it can give us an idea of what to expect as our planet continues to warm.”

###

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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62 thoughts on “Claim: ‘The blob’ in the Pacific boosted Western US ozone levels

    • Not at all.

      “Managers saw that air quality was violating the air quality standards on many days, and they didn’t know why.”

      this means that state authorities have ozone limits so low that natural fluctuations mean they have illegal air quality. They are mandated to fix that otherwise they’ll get sued by the likes of Sierra Club in a ‘friendly’ law suit and the state gets to make a payment to Sierra Club and makes a promise to shut down local businesses which produce ozone.

      • … and it can give us an idea of what to expect as our planet continues to warm.”

        oops, mustn’t forget the obligatory genuflections to the orthodoxy. A quick confirmation of faith just to ensure publication.

      • Lets see.
        “A” leads to “B” leads to “C”
        “A” Increasing temperatures is greatest at the poles
        “B” Increasing temperatures lead to More Ozone
        “C” Ozone depletion is greatest at the poles
        So increasing temperatures could be natures way of dealing with Ozone Depletion in the Polar regions

      • A ‘telling’ freudian slip?

        Jaffe said. “Then I looked at other ozone data from around the Pacific Northwest, and everybody was high that year.”

        Recreational marijuana use was legal in both Washington and Oregon state in 2015. The primary sources of ozone precursors are natural emissions from plant based sources and from combustion events. Pot growers and pot smokers add to both sides of the ozone precursor ‘source’ emissions.

  1. …The study finds that terrestrial effects of “the blob” — warm temperatures, low cloud cover and calmer air — were the perfect ingredients to produce ozone….

    Quick!!! Now is the time to put a tax on voting Republican in order to cut down on ozone levels – then measure them again in a year’s time and show how much stopping people voting Republican has cut the ozone levels…

  2. Our environmental laws need to be written..

    There ya go. Write them laws forcing the entire northwest Pacific Ocean to comply .. or else

  3. “This work helps us understand the link between climate variability and air quality, and it can give us an idea of what to expect as our planet continues to warm.”

    This is incorrect. The science was settled years ago, right?
    /snark

  4. I see they failed to quantify Ozone destroying components.

    Again, strenuous correlation is called science.
    I can’t help but wonder how long the data was down in that basement being subjected to a blow torch and pliers

  5. Weak winds “may” influenced the mixing of Ozone and Ozone destroying pollution. Less mixing from all those AC units in the warm El Nino\blob warmed weather, maybe, marginally more Ozone concentration maybe :D

    Dunno if relevant
    “When a strong El Niño occurs, there is a substantial change in the major east-west tropical circulation, causing a significant redistribution of atmospheric gases like ozone. These changes occur vertically throughout the troposphere, and cause higher ozone levels over Indonesia and lower levels over much of the tropical central and eastern Pacific Ocean during an El Niño.”

    http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=4791

  6. Is this the same Jaffe who was a cartoonist for Mad Magazine for decades? A new magazine on Climate Madness would in fact find no shortage of material to be able to publish 100 pages daily for a century, although it would not sell many copies in Washington DC, New York or California. Perhaps Trump could subsidize it (for one-millionth the cost of solar subsidies). Al Gore could replace Alfred E. Neuman on the cover.

  7. Interesting…but the “climate change” connection is spurious as usual. Temperature increases ALWAYS increase O3 levels, especially in summer sunshine.

    They have found that natural variability of weather conditions can cause warmer seasons in some regions and that warmer regions have higher O3 levels naturally — due to biogenic production of aerosols that degrade into O3.

    The few parts per Billion extra (up to 13) push some urban areas over the EPAs nutty new (2015) regulations in which the “allowable maximum daily 8-hour average (MDA8) was reduced to 70 ppb”.

    The MDA8 value of 70 ppb is often exceeded naturally.in areas far from cities and what we normally consider air pollution. It results from the interaction of plant aerosols and sunshine.

    Note the aspect of “focus on anomaly” — the red in the anomaly map when combined with normal ppbv levels for the same areas show no important changes — the ppbv values remain well below anything of any concern even by the [idiotic] new standards — which would often declare much of the West’s coniferous forests a danger to human health in the summer. If one reverses the colors, red and blue, the scare story gores away.

  8. …but anyone pickup on this? …

    What you are interested in with a battery is:

    1 – Amount of charge you can store?
    2 – How much and how fast can you get it out?
    3 – How much does it cost?

    All else is pretty much secondary. And I not that the article does not address any of thise items…

  9. 3 to 13 parts per billion?…with a “b”? That is a 3 preceded by 8 zeroes. Can we even measure that? That is 3 / 10,000,000ths of 1%. Sorry, I am calling B___ ___t on this one.

  10. From Jaffe: ““Our environmental laws need to be written with an understanding that there’s a lot of naturalvariability from one year to the next {period}.

    There, I fixed it for him — added a word, and put a ( . ) in the correct space.

  11. This is a perfect example of a group of clueless scientists that no longer care about natural variances and equate human influence to minute within acceptable range changes. I see this all the time when novices and stupid people try too hard to make themselves look smart. This is really bad science. Much like reading “for Policy Makers” docs from IPCC.

    What if CO2 has had only minimal impact on climate and virtually nothing unnatural has been occurring? The implications are mind blowing. From the IPCC to the media to congress and S. Whitehouse n Gore et al to M. Mann to most Libs and even to us, etc.! What if!? So many lies and ulterior motives. So much ignorance and collusion. Liberal Brain damage/pathology or a will to control (still pathological!). The implications are …, well you get it!

  12. Wow! Ozone limits at 70 Parts per BILLION! Be very afraid!

    Quote from the study:
    “The study focuses on June 2015 because the wildfire season began in July and dominated conditions in the later summer. Jaffe’s group is exploring that effect in a separate project.”

    In fact, wildfires (aka forest fires) have a much greater impact on real air quality than any manmade air pollution in the northwest of North America – and that includes Western Canada.

    Our idiotic Alberta government is going to shut down our coal-fired power plants because of alleged air pollution, when the total pollutants produced by all our coal plants in one year is outweighed by just one forest fire, and we get scores or hundreds of such fires every year.

  13. WARNING: Pet Peeve Complaint follows:

    I hate Press Release Science — we certainly do not need it here at WUWT. If a study is to be highlighted even if the impetus is a Press Release — which can be legitimately quoted — but the Press Releases often do not have a link to the actual study being covered. which means one is forced to rely on the opiniuons (almost always exaggerated) of the institution’s press office writers — and the “outside of serious science” quotes they drag out of the authors to inflate the importance and impact of the study.

    If a link to the study can not be found — at least expressly state so in the post here: example — “This study is still under embargo and a link to the study is not available.”

    *****

    This study on O3 is available in a pre-print version at DOI: 10.1002/2016GL072010

    If you are unfamiliar with how to recover a journal paper by DOI, I suggest reading in the journal Science, or the Wiki or even at the American Council on Science and Health..

      • Well, Auto. Good for you. Having recently lost your dear wife, do be kind to yourself re: the “slower”). Depression slows our thinking. “And this, too, shall pass.” Winter may last for a couple of years, this time…, but, SPRING IS COMING. Your intellect will be there for you when it does (it’s just all curled up, hibernating, for now). “Chords which were broken will vibrate once more.”

        Take good care of yourself.

        Praying for you,

        Janice

  14. Ozone increase because of blob is not very essential. The causes can be identified pretty well.

    For me much more important question is: what was the cause of this blob? I have seen a suggestion of under sea volcanic activity? Any evidence?

    • Southeast Asia does have volcanic activity (see Tambora and Krakatoa, as two of the larger examples), but a simpler suggestion is that the sun heats the seas in that area. When the winds move the warm water across the Pacific, then we have an El Nino.

  15. I miss the Blob – we had warm, mild winters here in the West, and everybody liked that.

    Funny thing about alleged global warming – if it was real, it would be a good thing – for humanity AND the environment.

    Unfortunately, the science is becoming increasingly settled, such that global warming alarmism is clearly a false crisis.

    The watermelons will have to invent another boogeyman to frighten children and imbecilic adults.

    • The watermelons want your freedoms – all of them.
      And probably your death [in a nice way, to preserve the planet, or some such tosh]. After all, they think barely 500 million humans is enough for poor Terra to carry, against the current 7,500 million.
      14 in 15 need to die. Soon [I know 15 in 15 w I l l die, in due course!]
      Nice folk, these watermelons.
      Generic name for watermelon is Citrullus [per the ever-fragrant Wikipedia, which even I can edit].
      So Citrullusids [Citrullusers? Citrullusites?] are plainly partially pleasant people, potentially.

      Auto

  16. Why do they put the star for the Mount Bachelor Observatory in Oregon when Washington state is the location of Mount Bachelor?

    • Are there two Mt Bachelors? Because the one I am familiar with is near Bend, Oregon.
      Makes sense, it’s right next to the Three Sisters.

      • Well I believe you’re right! It would perhaps be best if I didn’t get Mount Bachelor and Mount Baker Twisted into the wrong States.

  17. The government says 70 PPB is hazardous, others say different. Than the alternative health community thinks Ozone has some positive health effects when used in moderation. Ozonetherapy (or “Ozone Therapy”) is used across the USA and Canada by a wide variety of practitioners, including but not limited to Medical Doctors, Dentists, Chiropractors, Osteopathic Physicians, Naturopathic Physicians, Nurses and Nurse Practitioners, Oriental Medicine Practitioners, and a huge array of specialists. The challenge to date in North America has been a lack of cohesion and cooperation amongst practitioners. This lack of organization has perhaps been one element that has held back a wider acceptance of Ozone Therapy (in North America) as a safe and effective therapy for a wide variety of health challenges.

    The American Academy of Ozonotherapy (AAO) was newly founded in 2010, as an academy of health professionals dedicated to establishing standards for the art and science of Ozonotherapy, educating the public and other health professionals about the many uses of Ozonotherapy in medicine, and promoting research in Ozonotherapy. Their goal is to enhance the health and well being of people through this safe, inexpensive, and effective therapy..

    Than you have industry. As a killer of both bacteria and fungus, devices generating high levels of ozone, some of which use ionization, are used to sanitize and deodorize uninhabited buildings, rooms, ductwork, woodsheds, boats and other vehicles and for mold remediation.

    From Wiki:
    Ozone is a powerful oxidant (far more so than dioxygen) and has many industrial and consumer applications related to oxidation. This same high oxidising potential, however, causes ozone to damage mucous and respiratory tissues in animals, and also tissues in plants, above concentrations of about 100 ppb.

    You can never trust those in government because often times they are protecting special interests who pay the largest tribute to the campaigns of our “finest” politicians. It is in effect a pay to play system, is it not?

    • Seems like ozone’s potential harm to humans, should be re-examined and verified. Assumptions of low level harm may not consider all benefits. It deserves some debate. GK

      • The only analogy I was going for was a comment on the many people who assume that if something is bad in large quantities, it must also be bad in small quantities.

      • Stephen Greene,
        I don’t know about radiation.

        I hear water is bad in too large quantities.
        You can drown in the Oxygen dihydride.
        But that won’t stop me putting a little water in my (small) whisky on Burns Night.

        Auto – a big red wine fan, generally.

    • You know…, CO2, O3, N2O, it’s all pollution. Just ask the Sierra Club. But don’t forget to send the check!

      • Stephen Greene
        February 15, 2017 at 11:56 am

        You know…, CO2, O3, N2O, it’s all pollution. Just ask the Sierra Club. But don’t forget to send the check!

        Other instances of pollution can include:
        Greenpeace
        WWF
        UN
        etc.

        SteveT

  18. as I was saying
    increases and decreases in ozone respectively follow decreases and increases in solar magnetic field strengths. I can prove this.

    My theory is that as the solar polar magnetic field strengths decreases, more of the most energetic particles are able to escape, forming more ozone, peroxides and N-oxides TOA. The atmosphere protects us, against these harmful rays.
    The ozone hole was another dumb scare story. My bet is, that peroxides are formed preferentially above the oceans as more OH radicals are available TOA>
    The amounts of stuff produced by volcanos is not enough to produce any effect of the order that you claim possible. Increase in volcanic activity in Iceland does show you that earth’s inner core has been moving, north east, going by the change in the magnetic north pole. Go down 1 km into a gold mine here and feel the elephant in the room?
    Hence, there has been some warming at the north pole and in the NH.
    Here in South Africa, there has been no warming and overall, for the SH, it is almost zero or even below…

  19. Quote: Ozone is an invisible component of smog that is a secondary pollutant formed by a chain reaction. Cars, factories and other sources emit pollution into the atmosphere. Solar rays then provide the spark for chemical reactions that produce the three linked oxygen atoms of ozone.

    This appears to be saying that without pollution there would be no ozone. Those who used to go to the seaside to smell the ozone will be disappointed.

    • FG: “smell the ozone”
      I always thought that they were trying to smell the dimethylsulfide ‘sea smell’.

      • OUH, there are lots of Ozone Parades near the seafronts of this world, but Dimethylsulfide Parade sounds like it belongs with Bromide Avenue and Mercury Street in a mining town.

  20. If the blob is bad then we need to get rid of it. How much water are we talking about? People should demostrate and petition the government to get rid of the blob. How much will it cost to relocate the blob’s warm water to a place where it will cool such as the antarctic ocean.

  21. “Air is pulled with vacuum pumps into a room to be sampled by a variety of instruments in the summit’s lift house. ”

    Don’t electrical arcs cause O2 to recombine into O3? Might there be an arcing cable lift motor in the lift house?

  22. It does seem like the most recent research papers have been dredging new bottoms.

    A “University of Washington Bothell study” uses 11 years of measurements. Measured in a room with many instruments from air cycled in via electric motor.

    An 11 year chart with only the highest measurement per year marked.

    University of Washington Bothell’s seance spiritualists do not need to prove causation, nor even correlation.
    UOWB’s psychics are able to divine what caused a temporary minor increase blip; and they have named the devil cause. It was caused by the blob.

    Now, I could have sworn the blob was offshore in the Northwest for several years, apparently without affecting UOWB’s graphic.

    No research into sources of ozone locally, just assumptions.
    No research into possible long term ozone measurements, just assumptions.
    No attempts test/investigate all possible causes, just assumptions.
    Not even dodgy mannian mathematics, just assumptions.

    Then, I came to the final sentence and it almost makes sense.

    “The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.”

    No wonder the research is terrible. UOWB follows NOAA’s illuminating science and footsteps.
    NOAA has made it repeatedly obvious, that all it takes is to declare the result then double down; refuse requests for info, refuse to debate, refuse to acknowledge inconvenient research and analysis, refuse to back down from claiming successful research.

  23. From the article: ““Ultimately, it all links back to the blob, which was the most unusual meteorological event we’ve had in decades,” Jaffe said.”

    I don’t believe it is accurate to say that it has been decades since a high pressure system set up off the west coast of the U.S., and sat there for a while.

    High pressure systems set up all the time off the west coast and then usually move slowly east. Sometimes they stop and linger over an area for a while, which causes increased temperatures over the land for as long as the system lingers, and that’s what happened with the Blob, too, only this took place over the ocean.

  24. Dan Jaffe, everything’s cool – 16 on Feb.2017

    Blue sky over Bürmoos, light breeze and the birds chirping.

    Nothing alarming.

  25. Even if true (see the very first response post by Dinsdale above), what’s the big deal? Just release a tiny bit of that old-formula Freon over the affected cities and POOF!, there goes the extra ozone.

  26. O3 is formed from O2 in the atmosphere so reducing the amount of O2 in the atmosphere will also reduce the amounnt of O3 that can be produced. The burning of fossil fuels converts O2 to both CO2 and H2O and hence reduces the capability of the atmosphere to produce O2 hence the burning of fossil fuels han help reduce O3 production. We are talking about burning fossil fuels just as cleanly as possible. Removing all of the O2 from our atmosphere would have a cooling effect because it would significantly reduce the mass of the atmophere amd hence the depth of the troposphere.

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