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You are here: Home / SARP / SARP 2015 / 2015 Student Presentations / Whole Air Sampling / Analysis of Hydroxyl Radical Reactivity in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Analysis of Hydroxyl Radical Reactivity in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Julia M. Carlstad, University of Washington

Abstract: Using the UC Irvine Whole Air Sampler, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were measured onboard the NASA DC-8 during the Student Airborne Research Program. High levels of ozone were observed near the surface over the Sierra Nevada mountains, and VOC data was used to investigate factors that contributed to ozone production. This was performed using the hydroxyl radical reactivity which can, in proper conditions, be used to predict ozone formation potential. The region was divided into three boxes from east to west, based on wind direction, and the reactivity was analyzed over each region with respect to methane, non-methane alkanes, alkenes, aromatics, and biogenic compounds. In the westernmost box the reactivity was 1.7 ± 0.5 s-1 (1σ), 1.4 ± 1 s-1 in the middle section, and in the easternmost region it was 0.8 ± 0.3 s-1. The data were compared with a region known to be heavily polluted, the Los Angeles (LA) basin, and it was observed that the reactivity was 1.1 ± 0.6 s-1, lower than in two of the mountainous regions. In the Sierra Nevada mountains a major percentage of the hydroxyl radical reactivity was the result of biogenic influence, at 24% for the western box, 39% for the middle box, and 31% for the easternmost box, in contrast to only 2% biogenic contribution in LA. This indicates that biogenic factors greatly contributed to overall ozone formation in the Sierra Nevada mountains. These mountains are strategically protected, and high pollution levels could lead to health impacts for visitors, vegetation, and wildlife.