Thank you for your interest and concern over this matter.
In response to your last letter, yes, I have been reading your blog and linking to it. (Gail's photos of dying plants)
I find the infra-red photography very interesting and am curious to find out if it can diagnose ozone problems. Please keep me posted.
1) Wide spread ozone problem?
Yes. I have witnessed across the entire United States and have read reports of the problem in other countries.
Sudden... well, yes, I would agree. When I talk or write about the situation, I've learned to tone down my stance (less I be considered an alarmist.)
On the other hand, I've come to realize that people waking up in a panic to the situation might be our only hope for a solution.
It baffles me why the general population does not seem to notice nor care.
Though I am fairly certain that ozone coupled with other climate change variables is causing the mass vegetation death, I am not certain about the rate of decline. What I guess is happening is -- an exponential acceleration.
Perhaps, it is an ironic result of the dueling ozone types. Ground level ozone (tropospheric ozone) reacts to sun light and heat causing plants to suffocate. High level ozone (stratospheric ozone) helps protect living things from the harmful rays of the sun. Humans have caused too much low level ozone, as well as, depleted the protective high level ozone. When the sun shines through holes or thin layers of the stratospheric ozone, it accelerates the choking action of the tropospheric ozone.
At the same time, plants are an important filter to help
ease / prevent global warming. CO2 and other greenhouse
gases are helped to be kept in check by vegetation. As we cause
the death of plants, we accelerate global warming. This
causes an exponential chain reaction that is an endless loop
* more heat and sunlight gets through to the surviving plants
* less vegetation feeds global warming
Though what I wrote is not proven, I have growing evidence that it is true. Unfortunately, this scenario also applies to humans. With fewer shade trees, human's habitat is also threatened. There will be more heat and sunlight on houses. Humans will use more energy to cool their homes and offices creating more greenhouse gases... leading to an acceleration in global warming... leading to more energy being used, etc.
Even a more severe scenario is human health as it relates to tree death due to ozone. Increase instances of melanoma and other types of cancer, eye damage and most of all respiratory ailments are a result of tropospheric ozone. With fewer plants, humans will be more exposed to ozone. There are already many cities that issue ozone alerts and for residents to stay inside. It is likely that the old sayings for good health "go out and get some fresh air" and "go outside and play" will be turned upside down.
Although the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are not here yet, the hazy part never left. The thick haze that settles over the City some days might look like a cloud but it's really a thick chemical soup. Breathing that polluted air isn't healthy for anyone and it's especially hard on older folks, youngsters and those with lung problems.
One of the most dangerous contaminants in the haze is ground-level ozone and, unfortunately, Philadelphia is one of just six U.S. cities that the Environmental Protection Agency says has a serious ozone problem. Ozone forms when sunlight strikes the exhaust fumes of cars and trucks. In Philadelphia, it has plenty to strike: Each year our cars and trucks put 99 tons of volatile organic compounds, 133 tons of nitrogen oxides and 269 tons of carbon monoxide to the local air. Traffic congestion adds to ozone pollution because vehicles that are idling or crawling along don't run efficiently.
This past summer we experienced six ozone alert days where ozone reached unhealthy levels. In fact, our city set a dubious record this year on May 20, the earliest day ever that our air required an ozone alert. And through the middle of August, Philadelphia has already logged five ozone alert days - more than in all of 1997.
Read Gail's reply: Is It Time To Panic?
Sidd's Report on the Earth's Status
Ozone Part 3
Ozone Part 4
The Sleeping Giant Analogy