Weekday/Weekend Differences in Ambient Air Pollutant Concentrations in Atlanta and the Southeastern United States

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Abstract

The authors quantified changes between mean weekday and weekend ambient concentrations of ozone (O3) precursors (volatile organic compounds [VOC], carbon monoxide [CO], nitric oxide, and oxides of nitrogen [NOx]) in Atlanta and surrounding areas to observe how weekend precursor emission levels influenced ambient O3 levels. The authors analyzed CO, nitric oxide (NO), and NOx measurements from 1998 to 2002 and speciated VOC from 1996 to 2003. They observed a strong weekend effect in the Atlanta region, with median daytime (6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time) decreases of 62%, 57%, and 31%, respectively, in the ambient levels of NO, NOx, and CO from Wednesdays to Sundays, during the ozone season (March to October). They also observed significant decreases in ambient VOC levels between Wednesdays and Sundays, with decreases of 28% for the sum of aromatic compounds and 19% for the sum of Photochemical Assessment Monitoring Stations target compounds. Despite large reductions in O3 precursor levels on weekends, day-of-week differences in O3 mixing ratios in and near Atlanta were much smaller. Averaging overall O3-season days, the 1-hr and 8-hr mean peak daily O3 maxima on Sundays were 4.5% and 2.3% lower, respectively, than their mean levels on Wednesdays (median of 14 site differences), with no sites showing statistically significant Wednesday-to-Sunday differences. When restricted to high-O3 days (highest 3 peak O3 days per day of week per site per year), the 1-hr and 8-hr Sunday O3 mixing ratios were 11% and 10% lower, respectively, than their mean peak levels on Wednesdays (median of 14 site differences), with 6 of 14 sites showing statistically significant Wednesday-to-Sunday differences. The analyses of weekday/ weekend differences in O3 precursor concentrations show that different emission reductions than normally take place each weekend will be required to achieve major reductions in ambient ozone levels in the Atlanta area.

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