Interim Report

Team Number: 039
School Name: Clayton High School
Area of Science: Botany; Atmospheric Sciences
Project Title: The Effects of Surface Ozone Upon Plant Life
Project Abstract: http://mode.lanl.k12.nm.us/97.98/abstracts/039.html
Interim Report: http://mode.lanl.k12.nm.us/97.98/interims/039.html
Final Report: http://mode.lanl.k12.nm.us/97.98/finalreports/039/finalreport.html

One of the most important factors facing the world today is ozone. The ozone layer in the upper atmosphere is quickly depleting, concerning environmentalists the world over. However, atmospheric ozone is not the only source of O3 on Earth. Surface ozone is one of the most noticeable gases to people, yet it is often overlooked. Moreover, it may be just as vital as its heavenly variety.

Surface ozone is a by-product of electrical storms, specifically air-to-surface lightning. When electrons interact, causing what is known as a "lightning bolt", nitrogen is fixated into the nitric gases, nitrates and nitrites. A corona, or discharge of the nitric gases, results in the triple bonding of oxygen-- ozone. The amount of each gas is constant, despite the intensity of the strike. Once the lightning effect dissipates, all three gases spread. People often notice a strange smell near a lightning strike: that smell is the ozone.

While ozone is not harmful to humans, and even beneficial to water purification, plants are severely effected by the gas. During photosynthesis, plants take in carbon dioxide and "breathe" out oxygen. However, when ozone enters a plant's system, it changes the way plants photosynthesize their nutrients. Instead of taking in CO2, CO3 is required for plants to photosynthesize the ozone. Longer time is taken to extract the carbon, resulting in a loss of efficiency in the process. Finally, the plants cannot act quickly enough to properly "breathe", and they die.

We will study the effects of this slowed photosynthesis on three plants: wheat, cotton, legumes, and oak trees. Using data already gathered on these plants, we will figure their survivability against ozone alone, disregarding any sudden surge of health from the nitric gases (as in the nitrate-dependent legumes) and possible damage due to fire. Then, we will take into account three factors--wind, elevation, and precipitation--and extrapolate a radius of destruction from the point of strike. An ozone discharge in a low-lying valley with heavy rain and no wind will not spread far, yet the concentration of the gas may be more deadly, whereas a discharge atop a peak with strong winds and no rain will spread far, though the concentration will be less.

Our program will be somewhat simplistic from a programming standpoint. We will input the plant type, and output a preprogrammed percentage of resistance. Then elevation, wind speed, and precipitation will be entered, determining the area of spread. Then, by taking into account the resistance percentage, we will reduce the area of spread to the area of destruction.

The output and analysis of our data will be the focus of our project. We can take a topographic map of a certain area, input the plant type which populates the area, and by varying the wind speed and precipitation, model the destruction of the area. Hopefully, we can do this with any given place and condition. This can be especially helpful to farmers, where they can determine the best crops to put in areas of frequent lightning storms.

Now that we have gotten into the research of our project, we can start focusing on the programming aspect. For the next few weeks following the interim report, we will outline our program in detail and being programming. After we have started the program, the project evaluation will take up the majority of our time. Once that is completed, we only have to look toward completing the project.

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New Mexico High School Supercomputing Challenge