Charlotte Air Quality - Understanding Summertime Ground-Level Ozone Production

There is increasing evidence that high-growth metropolitan areas present formidable challenges for implementing effective ozone attainment strategies. Charlotte is experiencing large population growth, greater increases in vehicle miles traveled, and growing electrical power demands. This region has the highest summertime ozone readings in the Carolinas. A recent research project conducted by chemistry major Jenny Perry focused on correlating regional tropospheric ozone levels with growth in the Charlotte region and with mobile primary pollutant sources (automobiles, buses, and trucks). A comparison of weekday with weekend levels of traffic, ozone precursors, and ozone was made to show how the Charlotte region responds to short-term fluctuations in emission sources. An evaluation of long-term trends was made to provide evidence whether growth-related declines in air quality are being effectively offset by ozone attainment measures.

During the Charlotte ozone project, Jenny worked extensively with both the state of North and South Carolina environmental divisions and with the Departments of Transportation in the Carolinas. She presented her results to the Mecklenburg County Department of Environmental Protection, to the North Carolina Division of Air Quality, and at the national meeting of the Air and Waste Management Association. Upon graduation from Winthrop in 1999, Jenny attended graduate school in chemistry at Duke University and completed her Ph.D. in Biophysical Chemistry in 2003. She was then awarded a prestigious postdoctoral research fellowship at the National Institute for Environmental Health Science (NIEHS) in Research Triangle Park. Dr. Jennifer (Perry) Cecile became a chemistry faculty member at Appalachian State University in 2007 and directs an extensive undergraduate research program. In 2013, Dr. Cecile was named the Honors College Mentor of the Year.

The objectives of Jenny's "Charlotte Ozone Study" study were: 1) to compile Charlotte traffic, CO, NOy, power plant NOx, and ozone data; 2) to examine weekday / weekend variation for each; 3) to evaluate long-term trends; and 4) to examine correlations among traffic patterns, CO, NOy, power plant NOx, and ozone levels. Hourly traffic volumes from 1990-1998 for four tachograph locations were used along with power plant emission data provided by Duke Energy and ambient monitoring data available from EPA and State monitoring systems.

Charlotte Ozone Study Findings