Is Our Air Quality Better Than Yours?

Is Our Air Quality Better Than Yours?

This blog post was contributed by Cathy Regan, an Education Coordinator at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History. Cathy develops and presents Family and Community Programs to help people engage with and understand the science of our natural world.
 

We have yet to observe any ozone damage to the plants in the ozone garden at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History – this season or last. Does that mean that our air quality is better here than at the NCAR or Mountain Research Station sites? Or are there other factors at play?

Our garden is on the south side of a stone building adjacent to a parking lot – so it is hot! We hand water the garden every day – sometimes twice a day. Our plants often wilt at midday.

Our hot garden site, right after planting in June.
Credit: Cathy Regan/CU Museum of Natural History

We see various types of damage to the leaves of our plants. Here are some examples of damage that isn’t due to ozone:

Leaves damaged by contact with the hot planter box.
Credit: Cathy Regan/CU Museum of Natural History

Even though this looks like the brown spots seen with ozone damage, these spots were visible on both sides of the leaf, and cross over some of the veins.
Credit: Cathy Regan/CU Museum of Natural History

We hope that we’ll soon be able to tell whether our lack of ozone damage really means there is less ground level ozone at our site, or if we aren’t seeing ozone damage due to other environmental stresses that prevent the plants from exhibiting visible ozone damage. While this may sound a bit weird, the plants actually have to be “breathing” well in order to take in ozone that will then cause visible damage. If the plants are trying to conserve water, they are closed to the ozone.

We will be installing an ozone monitor that will sample the air less than two feet from the garden. As soon as we know the answer we’ll let you know about it!