Air Quality-Climate-Vegetation Interactions ” with Arlene Fiore & Olivia Clifton

by | Jul 20, 2023 | Air Quality, Ozone, Uncategorized

Originally presented 30 Jan 2016
Funded in part by NOAA Award Number NA15NOS0080223 through the National Ocean Service


Multiple connections link air quality, climate, and vegetation. Tropospheric ozone and particulate matter (or “aerosols” in climate science) are air pollutants that have adverse effects on human health.  By interacting with Earth’s radiation budget, ozone and aerosols can lead to warming and/or cooling of the atmosphere. We expect climate change will influence air quality by changing the frequency, severity, and duration of heat waves, precipitation, and other removal and emission processes.

Some of these processes depend on vegetation. For example, forests and soils release compounds that are transformed chemically in the atmosphere to produce ozone and particulate matter.   Hotter, drier conditions are associated with wildfires, which are becoming more frequent in the Western U.S., a large source of particulate matter, and ozone precursors. One important removal process for both aerosols and ozone is dry deposition, which varies with meteorology and the underlying vegetation cover.  A major sink for tropospheric ozone occurs when plants take up ozone through the pores on their leaves at the same time that they are taking up carbon dioxide and losing water vapor via their pores. Plant regulation of these gases is controlled by the need to maintain a certain amount of water. Thus, when plants conserve water during drought or heat waves, it is possible that less ozone and carbon dioxide are removed from the atmosphere.

We are studying the processes and extent to which these biosphere-atmosphere interactions may lead to the build-up of pollution, which in turn impacts climate and air quality.  In our Earth2Class, we will provide an overview to build some basic understanding of these interactions, and some examples of how we are addressing air quality-climate-vegetation interactions in our own research.

Featured Scientists

Dr. Arlene Fiore directs the Fiore Atmospheric Chemistry Group at LDEO. This Group aims to advance the understanding of how anthropogenic and natural pollutant emissions influence atmospheric chemistry, climate, and air pollution on regional to global scales, and of the processes governing their interactions. The Group’s research investigations explore air pollution, climate-chemistry connections, biosphere-atmosphere interactions, and trends and variability in atmospheric constituents.

Olivia Clifton is a third-year graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Chemistry .Her main interest is tropospheric ozone, which is an air pollutant and greenhouse gas, and its feedbacks with the biosphere and with climate. In the atmospheric chemistry world, we call uptake of ozone at the Earth’s surface “ozone dry deposition”. Ozone dry deposition occurs through the stomatal pathway (plants take up ozone in the same way as carbon dioxide — through their stomata) and through non-stomatal pathways. Olivia is separating the variability in the two pathways using a variety of ground and space -based measurements and models.

View the introductory slideshow “What Is Ozone?”

View Arlene and Olivia’s presentation

[Also accessible through]

A snap bean plant exposed to clean air (left) is healthy, while a plant exposed to ozone (right) is showing injury.

NGSS-based learning activity based on this workshop:

“Activity: Seeking Patterns in Ground-Level Ozone Pollution and Temperature through an Exploratory Data Analysis” (doc)

“Activity: Seeking Patterns in Ground-Level Ozone Pollution and Temperature through an Exploratory Data Analysis” (pdf)

“Ozone-Temperature Activity Data Sets” (Note: These are in three forms–“Cleaned Data” suitable for student use; “Original Data” presenting actual measurements according to protocols; and “Processed Data” with temperatures converted into deg C and F.)

Example of the data tables and graphs that can be created in this activity

Related conference presentations and other resources from Arlene Fiore:


“Air Quality and Climate Connections” (Summary presentation for the Air and Water Management Association)

“Ozone Smog in Surface Air: Background Contributions and Climate Connections”   (CU School of International Public Affairs Masters Program)

“Detecting and Attributing Episodic High Background Ozone Events”  (pp. 22 – 28 in special issue of EM “Applying Satellite Data to Air Quality Management)

Other Pertinent Articles

“Ozone Basics” (NOAA)“Ozone and Your Health”   (EPA)
“Fact Sheet: Ambient Ozone Monitoring Regulations” (EPA)“Good Up High, Bad Nearby–What Is Ozone?”  (EPA)
“The Ozone We Breathe” (NASA Earth Observatory)“The Deadly Toll of City Smog” (The Guardian)

Related E2C Presentations

Karen L Smith (Oct 2013) “Antarctic Climate Change and Stratospheric Ozone”

Selected Classroom Activities

Useful resources suggested by Olivia Clifton (pdf) Useful resources suggested by Olivia Clifton (doc)
NASA Aura Mission “Exploring Ozone in Our Atmosphere”

“Evil-doer or Do-gooder: Getting the Goods on Ozone” (The Technology Teacher, Sep 2008)

Sky Color–Become and Atmosphere Observer” (NASA)
To order copies of “What’s Up in the Atmosphere? Exploring Colors in the Sky” from the Elementary GLOBE program,
use the following link:

“Identifying Ozone Variations over Different Locations”  (My NASA Data)

“Near-Ground-Level Ozone Pollution” created by Omowubi Alabi (U Missouri-KC, a SERC Cutting Edge Teaching Activity)

UCAR “Kids’ Crossing” resources:

“What Do You Know about Ozone?

“Ozone Attack”
“Stuff in the Sky”
“Air Pollution”

Black Carbon overview”          Activity   (Windows to the Universe)

2014 World Ozone Day Education Activities (NASA)

Penn State Arboretum Ozone Pollution Learning Module

Particulate Matter Air Sensor Kit (EPA)