Using aircraft data, scientists have been able to understand the bigger picture on ozone levels. Their new research shows that the pollution levels in the lower part of the Earth’s atmosphere have increased over the last two decades. Called tropospheric ozone, this greenhouse gas and air pollutant can harm lungs and damage plants at high levels. The increases have occurred even as tighter restrictions have lowered ground-level ozone in some places such as North America and Europe.
This is not the upper layer of ozone or “good” ozone that protects the Earth from harmful UV light.
In the past, researchers turned to satellite data to capture ozone information, but researchers were not able to draw firm conclusions because results often offered conflicting results.
“We were not able to say if ozone was increasing or decreasing with time globally. That is a real issue, knowing the impacts that ozone has on climate, health and vegetation,” lead researcher Audrey Gaudel, a scientist with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado.
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