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Air Quality at Devils Postpile National Monument, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, USA

Category: Aerosol and Atmospheric Chemistry

Volume: 16 | Issue: 10 | Pages: 2315-2332
DOI: 10.4209/aaqr.2016.02.0069
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Joel D. Burley 1, Andrzej Bytnerowicz2, Monica Buhler3, Barbara Zielinska4, Donald Schweizer5, Ricardo Cisneros5, Susan Schilling2, Jennifer Chapman Varela1, Mark McDaniel4, Michelle Horn6, Deanna Dulen3

  • 1 Department of Chemistry, Saint Mary’s College of California, Moraga, CA 94575, USA
  • 2 USDA Forest Service, PSW Research Station, Riverside, CA 92507, USA
  • 3 Devils Postpile National Monument, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546, USA
  • 4 Desert Research Institute, Reno, NV 89512, USA
  • 5 University of California, Merced, CA 95340, USA
  • 6 Technical University of Munich, D-85354 Freising, Germany


DEPO frequently exceeds the new NAAQS and current CAAQS for O3 (8 h average of 70 ppb).
Exceedances of the old NAAQS (8 h average of 75 ppb) are less frequent.
Elevated O3 reflected contributions from both long range and regional transport.
In summer 2013, the Aspen and Rim Fires increased PM2.5 to unhealthy levels.


Ambient concentrations of O3, PM2.5, NH3, NO, NO2, HNO3, SO2 and VOCs were measured at Devils Postpile National Monument (DEPO) during the summer seasons of 2013 and 2014. The measurements were impacted by the Aspen and Rim Fires in 2013, and the French and King Fires in 2014. While O3 concentrations were not discernibly perturbed by the fire events, the 70 ppb threshold (8-hour average) corresponding to both the current California Ambient Air Quality Standard (CAAQS) and the new National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) was exceeded on five days during 2013, and on 16 days during 2014. The older NAAQS of 75 ppb (8-hour average) was exceeded once in 2013, and six times in 2014. Exceedances of the CAAQS or NAAQS occurred when background sources of O3 were augmented by regional-scale transport, at higher altitudes, of polluted air masses that had passed through the San Joaquin Valley before arriving at the DEPO site. The 2013 Aspen Fire elevated PM2.5 to a maximum hourly concentration of 214 µg m–3 and a maximum 24 h mean of 92.7 µg m–3, and resulted in 13 exceedances of the 35 µg m–3 (24 h average) NAAQS for PM2.5. The 2013 Rim Fire increased PM2.5 to a maximum hourly concentration of 132 µg m–3 and a maximum 24 h mean of 69.6 µg m–3, and resulted in two exceedances of the 24 h NAAQS. Concentrations of NH3 increased during all fires, as did those of NO2 during the Aspen and Rim Fires. Concentrations of benzene increased substantially during the French Fire.



Ozone Passive samplers PM2.5 VOC Nitrogen oxides

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