A 10-year study of background surface ozone concentrations on the island of Gozo in the Central Mediterranean
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- Saliba, M., Ellul, R., Camilleri, L. et al. J Atmos Chem (2008) 60: 117. doi:10.1007/s10874-008-9112-3
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A 10-year study of surface ozone mixing ratios in the Central Mediterranean was conducted based on continuous ozone measurements from 1997 to 2006 by a background regional Global Atmospheric Watch (GAW) station on the island of Gozo. The mean annual maximum mixing ratio is of the order of 66 ppbv in April–May with a broad secondary maximum of 64 ppbv in July–September. No long-term increase or decrease in the background level of surface ozone could be observed over the last 10 years. This is contrary to observations made in the Eastern Mediterranean, where a slow decrease in the background ozone mixing ratio was observed over the past 7 years. Despite the very high average annual ozone mixing ratio exceeding 50 ppbv—in fact, the highest average background ozone mixing ratio ever measured in Europe—, the diurnal O3 max/O3 min index of <1.40 indicates that the island of Gozo is a good site for measuring background surface ozone. However, frequent photosmog events from June to September during the past 10 years with ozone mixing ratios exceeding 90 ppbv indicate that the Central Mediterranean is prone to long-range transport of air pollutants from Europe by northerly winds. This was particularly evident during the so-called “August heatwave” of the year 2003 when the overall ozone mixing ratio was 4.6 ppbv higher than the average of all other 9 months of August since 1997. Air mass back-trajectory analysis of the August 2003 photosmog episodes on Gozo confirmed that ozone pollution originated from the European continent. Regression analysis was used to analyse the 10-year data set in order to model the behaviour of the ozone mixing ratio in terms of the meteorological parameters of wind speed, relative humidity, global radiation, temperature, month of year, wind sector, atmospheric pressure, and time of day (predictors). Most of these predictors were found to significantly affect the ozone mixing ratios. From March to November, the monthly average of the AOT40 threshold value for the protection of crops and vegetation against ozone was constantly exceeded on Gozo during the past 10 years.