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TEACHERS: Will There Be Ozone Tomorrow?

Note to Teacher: This lesson is based on real time ozone data that is available for the United States from May to September. If this lesson is delivered outside of "Ozone Season", there may not be data available for your region to support the lesson

Students will be able to:
  • collect and analyze real time data
  • make comparisons and determinations about the status of ozone in their local area
  • predict the Ozone level for the next day




Ground level ozone is formed by a chemical reaction between volatile organic compounds (VOCs), also known as hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) in the presence of sunlight. Nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons are known as the chief "precursors" of ozone. These compounds react in the presence of sunlight to produce ozone. These gaseous compounds mix like a thin soup in the atmosphere, and when they interact with sunlight, ozone is formed. Due to the nature of this reaction, ozone concentrations can reach unhealthful levels when the weather is hot and sunny with little or no wind. As a result, ground level ozone pollution, or smog, is mainly a daytime problem during summer months.

The photochemical reaction, described above, that produces ground level ozone requires several factors to be present and tends to occur when a stagnant air mass develops during hot and sunny conditions. The air will not become stagnant if weather systems continue to move through the area and displace the air with cleaner, "fresher" air.

One day alone is usually not enough to form excessive ozone. Usually it takes several days in a row, with the hot temperatures, the wind speed low, and the sky sunny for an ozone event to occur.  Therefore tracking weather conditions are an integral part of tracking ozone.

But is it possible to predict ground level ozone? In this lesson, students will access near real-time ozone data and weather data to predict if there will be ground level ozone in their area tomorrow.



PART 1: Gather the Data

  1. In the table below, fill in the Date column, starting with the date of 2 days ago.
  2. Access the AIRNow Air Quality Conditions - Map Archives web site.
  3. Highlight and select your state or region in the map.
  4. In the drop down menus on the next screen, select the current month, year, and your state (make sure the Ozone circle is selected).
  5. Click on “See Map Archives”.
  6. Click on the image for two days ago. Enter the 8 Hour Peak data into the table on the Student Worksheet.
  7. Click on the image for yesterday. Enter the 8 Hour Peak data into the table on the Student Worksheet.
  8. In the blue toolbar on the left side of the page, click on "Current Conditions".
  9. Click on your state on the U.S. map.
  10. From the drop down menu, select your region or state.
  11. Make sure "Current Map" is highlighted in the Ozone part of the table and click "See the Map".
  12. In the table on the Student Worksheet, enter the highest level of ozone showing in your area today.
Date 8 Hour Peak AQI Color Air Quality Maximum Temperature Ave. Wind Speed Events
2 days ago          
  1. Access the Weather Underground web site.
  2. Type in your city and state in the box at the top of the screen, and click “Fast Forecast”.
  3. Scroll down to the "Historical" area (at the bottom of the Conditions section).
  4. Using the drop down menu, enter the date for 2 days ago.
  5. Gather the Maximum Temperature and Wind Speed data (from the table at the top of the web page) for the past two days.
  6. Enter the data into the table on the Student Worksheet.
  7. Type in your city and state in the box at the top of the screen, and click “Fast Forecast”.
  8. Scroll down to the “Forecast” area. Summarize the predicted weather information for tomorrow and enter the data on Student Worksheet.
Forecasted Weather Conditions:



PART 2: Analyze the Data

  • Use the data you have collected to answer the questions on the Student Worksheet.



  1. Based on the data obtained in the search, have the students predict what the ozone levels might be for the area over the next three days.
  2. Have the students interpret possible patterns.
  3. Have students analyze their predictions versus reality. Were the predictions valid? Why or why not?


Implementation Tips
Remember, this lesson is to be used during ozone season (May - September in the U.S.) and does require real time information for student exploration.

If the lesson has to be executed outside of Ozone Season or local conditions are not conducive to high ozone levels, try using data from a state that is likely to have elevated ozone levels throughout the year, like California, Texas, or Florida, or use data from other countries, perhaps in another hemisphere and compare those conditions to your local conditions.

If your class meets before 9 a.m. and today's forecast has not been posted, simply have the students make their predictions based on the weather forecast and looking out the window for observations.


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