Model and in situ observation capture ozone intrusion in Colorado, USA

AQ-Watch, as an international consortium, will make use of satellite observations, in situ measurements and modelling products. Partners in the project come from research institutions and small and medium enterprises, and will co-develop and co-produce tailored products and services that can be used by governmental institutions (at local, regional and national levels) and private companies in different sectors to help mitigate air pollution and their effects on human health and the economy.

One of the model forecast products that is part of the project is the regional air quality forecast (https://www.acom.ucar.edu/firex-aq/forecast.shtml) run by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in the USA. The forecasts are evaluated continuously using surface observations of ozone and PM2.5, but on 11th February 2020 was also put to test when a stratospheric intrusion event in Colorado brought ozone rich air from the stratosphere down to lower altitudes and even all the way to the surface.

Dr. Gabriele Pfister, from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in the USA, and leader of AQ-Watch’s Work Package 6 (Regional co-production and pilot implementation), explains: “The recent event has been forecasted by our model and also followed by forecasters at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Thanks to colleagues at the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) in Boulder, Colorado who operated their ozone lidar during this event, we have the necessary observational evidence to evaluate our model predictions. We are pleased with how the model captured the vertical extent and the timing of this intrusion. Being able to evaluate our model on phenomena in near-realtime does help to increase the confidence in our model products and we appreciate the collaboration with experimentalists who provide us the necessary constraints to ground-truth our predictions.”

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A) Time-altitude cross sections of ozone mixing ratios for Boulder, Colorado as measured by the NOAA TOPAZ ozone lidar (top) and predicted by the NCAR air quality prediction system (bottom)
B) Ozone lidar data and visualization courtesy of Raul Alvarez, Christoph Senff, Sunil Baidar, and Andrew Langford, NOAA ESRL Boulder, CO

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