The long-term trend of background O3 in surface air over the United States from 1980 to 1998 is examined using monthly probability distributions of daily maximum 8-hour average O3 concentrations at a large ensemble of rural sites. Ozone concentrations have decreased at the high end of the probability distribution (reflecting emission controls) but have increased at the low end. The cross-over takes place between the 30th and 50th percentiles in May-August and between the 60th and 90th percentiles during the rest of the year. The increase is statistically significant at a 5% level in spring and fall, when it is 3-5 ppbv. The maximum increase is in the northeast. A possible explanation is an increase in the O3 background transported from outside the United States. Better understanding of the causes of the increase is needed because of its implications for meeting O3 air quality standards.
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