Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences
Monday, March 8, 2021

New maps of ozone air pollution support global burden of disease study

Data fusion approach to produce ozone exposure estimates from 1990-2017

Photo of polluted downtown Houston skyline.
Ozone and particle pollution in downtown Houston.

Researchers have mapped global ground-level ozone concentrations by year for the Global Burden of Disease study using a data fusion approach, the first time this method was applied to ozone observations.

The research team, led by the University of North Carolina with CIRES co-authors, fused an ozone database—the Tropospheric Ozone Assessment Report (TOAR)—with output from nine global atmospheric chemistry models. Then they used those data to produce ozone exposure estimates from 1990-2017 for the Global Burden of Disease. Their study was published today in Environmental Science & Technology

By doing a data fusion, the researchers were able to combine different sources of information, making use of the advantages of each. “This was a difficult project, in part because of the large amounts of data involved, but also because ozone measurements are lacking in so many important world regions with severe air pollution and high population,” said UNC professor Jason West, one of the paper’s authors.

The team used data from TOAR—the largest-ever compilation of ozone observations from more than 8,800 global sites—and estimates from nine different global atmospheric models to produce annual maps of ozone concentrations for every year from 1990 to 2017, at a spatial resolution of approximately 10 kilometers. 

The findings were used in the Global Burden of Disease 2019 (GBD2019) study, which estimated that about 365,000 people around the world died in 2019 from exposure to ozone pollution. Ground-level ozone air pollution is damaging to human health and to plant growth. 

GBD2019, which included members of this research team as co-authors, also found that, together, three air pollution factors—ambient fine particulate matter known as PM2.5, ambient ozone and indoor air pollution from solid fuel use—caused about 6.8 million deaths globally in 2019.

The Environmental Science & Technology study was led by UNC graduate students Marissa DeLang and Jacob Becker, with West and UNC's Marc Serre. They collaborated with Kai-Lan Chang and Owen Cooper, CIRES scientists working in NOAA’s Chemical Sciences Laboratory, and Martin Schultz of Germany. Cooper and Schultz chair TOAR, the global compilation of ozone observations. Other co-authors from around the world provided additional ozone measurements and model estimates. 

This story was adapted from a news story by UNC. Read the full story here


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