The Anatomy of High Levels of Wintertime Photochemical Ozone Production in the Uintah Basin, Utah, 2013

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Tuesday, 4 February 2014: 4:30 PM
Room C113 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Russell C. Schnell, NOAA, Boulder, Colorado; and S. J. Oltmans, B. Johnson, E. Hall, P. Cullis, A. Jordan, C. Sterling, R. Albee, and T. Mefford

The Uintah Basin, Utah is ~ 5,000 km2 in size with lower elevations of ~1400 m asl ringed by mountains rising to ~3,000 m. Within this basin are 6,000 gas wells that produced 10 billion m3 of natural gas and 4,000 oil wells that produced ~22 million barrels of oil in 2012. In winter, the confined geography in the basin traps effluents from these fossil fuel extraction activities into a shallow layer (a few 100 meters deep) beneath strong temperature inversions, especially when ample snow cover is present throughout the basin. The temperature inversions isolate the basin from upper level winds that allow for stagnant conditions that may last for a week or more before a frontal system may flush the basin out. The highly reflective snow provides for enhanced photolysis rates that in February are comparable to those in June. In 2013 December snowfall in the Uintah Basin persisted until early March with exceptionally elevated ozone production occurring in four distinct, 10-day periods separated by 2-3 days of near background values following frontal induced washouts of the basins. In one well studied ozone event, background ozone levels of 55 ppb in the basin were measured from the surface to the lower troposphere on January 30, 2013. By February 1, ozone concentrations from the surface to the top of the 180 m deep temperature inversion averaged 100 ppb. By February 6 ozone concentrations were 165 ppb throughout the same layer. From aircraft measurements these ozone concentrations were observed to be fairly well mixed throughout the basin although there were some notable hotspots. Cleanout of ozone and ozone precursors in the Uintah Basin was observed to occur within 4 hours or less as basin air was replaced with clean air from the west mixing to the surface.