Here are some older pics
of my horse chestnut tree
I post them here in case
someone might want to see
Oh dear, you really have history with the conker.
If it is in fact a problem from ozone, it would be better kept indoors if you have the light. They tell people to stay inside on high ozone alert days so the concentration must be less.
I’m confused (nothing new here). My understanding is that the advice to stay indoors is to protect against ultraviolet radiation, and is thus (in my mind) related to ozone in the upper atmosphere (as in ‘the ozone hole’). I thought the ozone you’re concerned about was at ground level – an entirely different beast. Perhaps I need to find the time to follow some of the many links on your website to investigate further…
Yes, you could say I do have a history with this tree. I’ve somehow managed to keep it alive since I planted it as a conker — almost a quarter of a century ago 🙂
A scientist once explained to me that a major reason so few people are concerned about tropospheric ozone is that they confuse it with stratospheric ozone, and think the problem has been fixed! So you are not alone by any means.
As you said they are an entirely different beast. Ozone in the stratosphere, which is naturally occurring, is beneficial and shields the earth and its plants and animals from too much UV radiation. Although banning certain refrigerant chemicals has lessened the loss of stratospheric ozone, it has by no means fully repaired itself, and so excess UV radiation is a problem. Of course, the aerosol and particulate pollution is simultaneously blocking UV which is known as global dimming – so it’s a complicated tradeoff that is poorly understood.
On the other hand, almost all ozone in the troposphere is caused by humans burning fuels, and also the release of volatile organic compounds from other industrial processes. Those VOCs travel enormous distances and when the conditions are right, they interact with UV radiation and form ground-level ozone, which is highly reactive and destructive to animals, plants, and even rocks. When there is an “ozone alert” the authorities are referring to “air quality” – as in the air that we breathe – not excess UV radiation. The reason they issue alerts advising people to stay indoors is that high peaks of ozone are ephemeral and transitory. (It’s important to point out, from the perspective of my blog, that the BACKGROUND level of ozone is inexorably rising even in remote rural areas, is persistent, and is particularly destructive to trees which live long enough to be exposed season after season and suffer cumulative damage.)
Of course, it’s quite debatable (and when I say that, I mean it is constantly debated by scientists and corporate lobbyists and think-tank employees – behind closed doors as well as in the courts) whether the threshold for peak levels determined by government regulatory agencies is sufficiently protective. I would argue it is not even close, which is why there are epidemics of cancer, emphysema, asthma, allergies, autism and Alzheimer’s – not to mention a mounting toll of dead trees and damaged crops, which, let’s remember, are EVEN MORE SENSITIVE than people to exposure to ozone.
When there are hospitalizations and deaths during heat waves, the media makes just about zero effort to ascertain what percentage is attributable to inhaling ozone, and what is actually related to temperature. I’m not sure why that should be, other than perhaps the prospect of asphyxiating from pollution is more likely to induce panic than suffocating from heat. With heat, you can turn on the fan or A/C. Somehow I suspect the authorities are afraid of a backlash should we be forced to become accustomed to see Americans wandering through Manhattan, Atlanta and LA wearing surgical masks the way they do in China.
Maybe I will crib some of this little primer for the blog. Give that conker some sea minerals!
Hi, Gail. Thanks for the clarification! I see what you mean now, it’s not that you’re worried about my little tree being at risk of ‘arboreal sunburn’ it’s the low-level (troposphere) ozone that may be the cause.
I can’t recall ever having heard an ‘ozone alert’ announcement for England. But then it’s not surprising that the mass media don’t think that issuing ozone alerts might be an important public service if there appears to be doubt over whether there’s a scientific consensus about low-level ozone (but is there any doubt?), especially given that the media clearly think that reporting on subjects like, oh, say, football take a higher priority than, oh, say, climate change, where there is a strong consensus (despite the merchants of doubt).
‘Sea minerals’ might be an alternative answer for the conker, you say. I’ll give some of that a try.
Thanks very much for all the info! Ah, reminds me, I still haven’t placed an order for that Climate Hawk Pin, I’ll get right on that.
Ha, well, there have been many stories about air quality issues in London, because the Olympic athletes need clean air to compete, and the EU is going to issue fines if it isn’t cleaned up:
here’s one but if you google you’ll find loads more:
No need to point out to me that London’s air is disgustingly filthy; I used to live and work there. One trip on the tube (the London Underground) followed by a good nose-blow is a good way to create a filthy handkerchief.
But I thought we were talking about ozone specifically, not just bad air quality in general. Sorry, I think I’ve got myself confused again.
Sorry to confuse again! It is a complex subject and even scientists are grappling with how to accurately measure various components of pollution. Ozone is the constituent of smog that is most detrimental to plants. Smog also frequently consists of particulate matter as well – divided into large and small particles, which behave differently in the lungs – and which creates the visible expectorant in your hanky.
Here’s one way of explaining it: http://www.answers.com/topic/smog
“Smog” is a popular term used to describe polluted air. It was originally used as an abbreviation of the combination of coal smoke and fog that, along with sulfur dioxide vapor, characterized polluted air in London and other British cities in the 1950s. The term came into more widespread use as a summary description for the quite different pollution mixture of ozone (O3) and other photochemical oxidants (e.g., hydrogen peroxide, hydroxgl radical peroxy acetylnitrate) that characterized the air pollution in Southern California beginning in the 1950s, and in many other urban areas in the United States in the decades that followed. In the United Kingdom, the smog was black and acidic, while the smog in California was lighter in color and more highly oxidizing.
The black smoke in Britain was heavier in the winter months, and was most closely associated with its reducing power as a chemical (i.e., antioxidant), and with excess mortality, from chronic bronchitis and respiratory symptoms. By contrast, the California mixture was worse in the summer, and was characterized in terms of its oxidizing power. It attacked rubber and chemical polymers, and was associated with eye irritation, reduced lung function, and impaired athletic performance. In both mixtures there were fine particles that caused light to scatter and reduced the range of visibility.
In the United States, United Kingdom, and other economically developed countries in the twentieth century, the black smoke components of past pollution have largely been controlled, and the residual pollution problem is most closely related to the concentrations of light-scattering fine particles and ozone that form in the atmosphere from gaseous precursors (ie, pollutant chemicals whose reaction products have low vapor pressures and condense into fine particles). Such pollution mixtures are generally referred to as smog. While generally present at lower concentrations than in the past, these mixtures are still associated with excess cardiopulmonary mortality, morbidity, and physiologic function deficits. Attribution of the effects to specific components of the pollution mixture remains controversial, and further chemical characterization and health-effects research is now underway to resolve the remaining uncertainties.
Note; “While generally present at lower concentrations than in the past” refers to the extremely high PEAKS, not the still-rising, constant background level.
Wow, thanks for taking the time to write all that!
As a Brit, I feel a lot of guilt lately: for the excesses of my country’s colonial history; for the fact that we’re the ones who started the thing that got us into this fine mess (i.e. the industrial revolution); for the fact that our air here is a lot cleaner than it once was — mainly because we’ve exported most of our dirty manufacturing overseas; and (last but not least) that most of my countryfolk seem totally oblivious of the debt that we owe to the rest of the citizens of our planet. I, along with the rest of those of my generation, may be technically innocent, but I for one don’t think we have, on balance, much to be proud of 😦
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