USGS Study Confirms An Urban Air-Pollution Problem At Mount Rainier National Park

ustries, tend to be concentrated in urban areas. But the common assumption that ozone pollution is strictly an urban problem is proving to be false, Peterson said.

Peterson and his students monitored ozone at Mount Rainier National Park from 1993 to 1997, and quantified the spatial distribution of this pollutant throughout western Washington in 1996. The park consistently had the highest average weekly levels of tropospheric ozone measured anywhere in the state. Ozone concentrations tend to increase at higher altitudes, partly because of passive dispersion from the stratosphere, but largely due to the transport of pollutants by prevailing winds inland from urban sources, such as the Seattle metropolitan area.

A common visitor destination in the park, known as Paradise, is on the southern slope of Mount Rainier at an elevation of 5,400 feet and a distance of about 60 miles from Seattle. Peterson said that Paradise had almost twice the monthly mean ozone concentration as Lake Sammamish, which is near sea level and less than ten miles east of Seattle.

Mount Rainier National Park resource manager Barbara Samora said the ozone study "is just one more indication of how difficult it is to protect our national parks. It isn't a simple matter of telling people to stay on footpaths or of sensibly locating campgrounds and parking lots. How do you manage a threat that is produced 60 miles from the park and transported here by winds??

A number of other North American wildlands have concentrations of tropospheric ozone sufficiently high to harm vegetation. They, too, are located downwind of metropolitan areas. These areas include El Desierto de Los Leones near Mexico City, San Bernardino National Forest to the east of Los Angeles, Sequoia National Park and Sequoia National Forest to the east of several metropolitan areas in California, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the eastern U.S.

Peterson noted that in the rapidly urbanizing Puget Sound re

Contact: Ruth Jacobs
United States Geological Survey

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