Ozone, Climate Change, and Our Health

Ozone, Climate Change, and Our Health

This blog post was contributed by Katya Hafich, an education and outreach coordinator for Learn More About Climate, an initiative of the University of Colorado Boulder Office for Outreach and Engagement.

Ground-level ozone (a.k.a “bad” ozone) is harmful to humans and plants. Ozone can make it difficult to breath, especially for those with asthma or other respiratory infections. High levels of ground-level ozone are hazardous for all people, but the young and elderly are often most affected. When an Ozone Action Alert is issued because of high ozone levels, the young and elderly are encouraged to stay inside and plan outdoor exercise early in the morning when ozone levels are lowest.

While people can go inside on Ozone Action Alert days, plants cannot. Spikes in ozone levels are dangerous to people, but for plants that are outside all of the time, long term exposure to ozone is what causes damage. What’s so cool about the ozone garden is that we can see ozone damage accumulate on leaves as plants are exposed to ozone day after day.

Many scientific studies have shown that ozone can form more easily on hot days. As our climate warms, we can expect more hot days, higher concentrations of ozone, and increasing risk to human and plant health. Careful monitoring of ozone sensitive plants can show how ozone damage changes from year to year.

To learn more about the impact of climate change on ozone, listen to this short story from Yale Climate Connections.

Below are pictures of what the ozone garden at the University of Colorado Boulder looks like this week. (Learn more about the ozone gardens in Boulder, Colorado.)

 

Bean plants in the ozone garden at CU Boulder. So far this summer, there isn’t much damage on the leaves at this garden.
Credit: Katya Hafich/CU Boulder

 

This ozone garden is next to the Museum of Natural History at CU Boulder (directions)
Credit: Katya Hafich/CU Boulder