Articles | Volume 11, issue 3
Research article
28 Mar 2018
Research article |  | 28 Mar 2018

Intra-urban spatial variability of surface ozone in Riverside, CA: viability and validation of low-cost sensors

Kira Sadighi, Evan Coffey, Andrea Polidori, Brandon Feenstra, Qin Lv, Daven K. Henze, and Michael Hannigan

Abstract. Sensor networks are being more widely used to characterize and understand compounds in the atmosphere like ozone (O3). This study employs a measurement tool, called the U-Pod, constructed at the University of Colorado Boulder, to investigate spatial and temporal variability of O3 in a 200 km2 area of Riverside County near Los Angeles, California. This tool contains low-cost sensors to collect ambient data at non-permanent locations. The U-Pods were calibrated using a pre-deployment field calibration technique; all the U-Pods were collocated with regulatory monitors. After collocation, the U-Pods were deployed in the area mentioned. A subset of pods was deployed at two local regulatory air quality monitoring stations providing validation for the collocation calibration method. Field validation of sensor O3 measurements to minute-resolution reference observations resulted in R2 and root mean squared errors (RMSEs) of 0.95–0.97 and 4.4–5.9 ppbv, respectively. Using the deployment data, ozone concentrations were observed to vary on this small spatial scale. In the analysis based on hourly binned data, the median R2 values between all possible U-Pod pairs varied from 0.52 to 0.86 for ozone during the deployment. The medians of absolute differences were calculated between all possible pod pairs, 21 pairs total. The median values of those median absolute differences for each hour of the day varied between 2.2 and 9.3 ppbv for the ozone deployment. Since median differences between U-Pod concentrations during deployment are larger than the respective root mean square error values, we can conclude that there is spatial variability in this criteria pollutant across the study area. This is important because it means that citizens may be exposed to more, or less, ozone than they would assume based on current regulatory monitoring.

Short summary
Ground-level ozone has negative human health impacts. In the summer of 2015, 13 low-cost sensor monitors were deployed to several neighborhoods around Riverside, California. There were significant spatial differences between monitors. This is important because it means that ozone in certain places may be higher than what EPA monitors report for an area, which is pertinent for residents of those communities. This research helps inform the limitations and advantages of low-cost sensor networks.