ABSTRACT: To comply with the federal 8-hr ozone standard, the state of Texas is creating a plan for Houston that strictly follows the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) guidance for demonstrating attainment. EPA's attainment guidance methodology has several key assumptions that are demonstrated to not be completely appropriate for the unique observed ozone conditions found in Houston. Houston's ozone violations at monitoring sites are realized as gradual hour-to-hour increases in ozone concentrations, or by large hourly ozone increases that exceed up to 100 parts per billion/hr. Given the time profiles at the violating monitors and those of nearby monitors, these large increases appear to be associated with small parcels of spatially limited plumes of high ozone in a lower background of urban ozone. Some of these high ozone parcels and plumes have been linked to a combination of unique wind conditions and episodic hydrocarbon emission events from the Houston Ship Channel. However, the regulatory air quality model (AQM) does not predict these sharp ozone gradients. Instead, the AQM predicts gradual hourly increases with broad regions of high ozone covering the entire Houston urban core. The AQM model performance can be partly attributed to EPA attainment guidance that prescribes the removal in the baseline model simulation of any episodic hydrocarbon emissions, thereby potentially removing any nontypical causes of ozone exceedances. This paper shows that attainment of all monitors is achieved when days with observed large hourly variability in ozone concentrations are filtered from attainment metrics. Thus, the modeling and observational data support a second unique cause for how ozone is formed in Houston, and the current EPA methodology addresses only one of these two causes.
Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association (1995) 03/2011; 61(3):238-53. · 1.52 Impact Factor