Air quality is vital to everyday life and health. Certain gases and particles cause poor air quality (polluted air) in large quantities. This is very unhealthy and unsafe to breathe in.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) wrote in an air quality article that they are in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to “issue daily air quality forecasts as part of a national Air Quality Forecasting Capability.” The National Weather Service (NWS) and NOAA implemented this national Air Quality Forecasting Capability that gathers hourly pollutant concentrations in a graphical and numerical form to help prevent the loss of life.
NOAA explains the two major pollutant categories: ozone and particulate matter.
Nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, such as motor vehicle exhaust, industrial emissions, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents,that produce ground-level ozone when there is heat and sunlight. If ozone gases are inhaled, it can create health problems such as lung irritation and inflammation, asthma attacks, wheezing, coughing, and increased susceptibility of respiratory illnesses.
Particulate matter are airborne particles that includes dust, dirt, soot, and smoke. Some particles are directly emitted into the atmosphere and some are formed when gases from burning fuels react with water vapor and sunlight.
What impact does weather have on air quality? NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Information explains how scientists found a correlation with air quality and heat waves, droughts, and snow storms.
An increase in ozone can be caused by heat waves, due to the air being stagnant and trapping emitted pollutants. Heat waves can also create a drought. This can create dry vegetation which is fuel for wildfires thus creating smoke. Also, when there are large snow storms that cause power outages, air quality can be indirectly affected due to people using wood and coal burning stoves, fireplaces, and gas or diesel generators to stay warm.
Reducing the amount of the burning of fossil fuels and trying to maintain/prevent wildfires can help keep air quality clean thus making air safer for all humans and animals.
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©2018 Weather Forecaster Brittany Connelly