Over spring break my friends and I were lucky enough to spend a couple days in a cabin in Sevierville, Tennessee. Thankfully our cabin was just a short drive from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which we ventured into multiple times. Unfortunately, most trails were closed due to damage from wild fires. While in the Sugarland visitors center near Gatlinburg, we found a lot of exhibits highlighting the wildlife found in the forest. Another exhibit was dedicated solely to climate change and how it impacts the forest. More specifically, how ozone levels influence humans, plants, and foliage throughout the forest. As shown in the image below, ozone is harmful at ground level, and can increase as the elevation rises. Ozone is three oxygen atoms with one double bond and one single bond. Ozone forms naturally in the atmosphere which is necessary for life on the planet. However, ozone can form in the troposphere (lowest section of the atmosphere, ground level to about 6 miles up) by reacting with oxides of nitrogen. The National Park Service made it a point to publish that many of the pollutants which causes ozone levels to rise is a result to many human activities (e.g. industry, transportation, etc.). The display also featured a screen which shows the park’s last measured ozone level in parts per billion (ppb) over the past 8 hours. The day we visited the park had an ozone level of 35 ppb, well within the healthy limit for humans to breathe. Breathing ozone causes humans to experience chest pain, coughing/wheezing, and inflammation of the throat. Ozone can also cause lung tissue to become less effective, and therefore causes the lungs to become less efficient. Reducing ozone levels is critical so future generations can continue to enjoy the beauty The Great Smoky Mountains has to offer.
Nice post! Not everyone knows that ozone found in the stratosphere is natural and necessary for life, while ozone found on ground level is dangerous. I`m glad you were able to go on this journey with your friends!