It is both a natural and a man-made product that occurs in the Earth's upper atmosphere (the stratosphere) and lower atmosphere (the troposphere). Depending on where it is in the atmosphere, ozone affects life on Earth in either good or bad ways.
Stratospheric ozone is formed naturally through the interaction of solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation with molecular oxygen (O2). The "ozone layer," approximately 6 through 30 miles above the Earth's surface, reduces the amount of harmful UV radiation reaching the Earth's surface.
Tropospheric or ground-level ozone - what we breathe - is formed primarily from photochemical reactions between two major classes of air pollutants, volatile organic compounds (VOC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).
These reactions have traditionally been viewed as depending upon the presence of heat and sunlight, resulting in higher ambient ozone concentrations in summer months.
Within the last decade, however, high ozone concentrations have also been observed under specific circumstances in cold months, where a few high elevation areas in the Western U.S. with high levels of local VOC and NOx emissions have formed ozone when snow is on the ground and temperatures are near or below freezing.
Ozone contributes to what we typically experience as "smog" or haze, which still occurs most frequently in the summertime, but can occur throughout the year in some southern and mountain regions.