Aside from the meteorologists you see on television or the meteorologists you hear about from the National Weather Service, air quality meteorologists apply the meteorological foundation to air pollution and the overall quality of the air around us. Air quality can be directly related to meteorology in terms of transporting air pollution from one source to another area. Air quality meteorologists pay attention to numerous pollutants being lifted into the atmosphere by sources, most likely from industrial facilities. Some of these pollutants can influence the surrounding area from which it originated.
Tropospheric ozone is a substance that can be directly influenced by pollutants being released into the atmosphere. Ozone also needs sunlight in order to be produced as well as, in most cases, hot and dry weather. There are numerous studies that have looked closely into whether ozone prefers hot, and dry weather over hot, and humid weather. These studies have shown that ozone tends to prefer hot, and dry weather in order to form. However, this does not mean ozone doesn’t form when the weather is hot and humid though.
Another pollutant that air quality meteorologists look into is fine particulate matter (PM-2.5), more commonly known as smoke. There are other particulate matter under the PM-2.5 umbrella, but smoke is the most common. This pollutant comes from wildfires that tend to occur during hot, and dry weather conditions. Smoke from these fires become lofted into the atmosphere and is transported via atmospheric winds and can return to the surface from subsidence, or downward motion in the atmosphere. Aside from providing colorful sunrises and sunsets, these concentrations can cause harmful situations for those with breathing problems or underlying illnesses.
The job of an air quality meteorologist is to forecast these pollutants and provide the general public with the most up to date information and data. If need be, meteorologists will issue an air quality action day which headlines harmful concentrations of pollutants and poor air quality. These action days are most common during the summer months, but can occur during other months throughout the year. Clear communication is of utmost importance for air quality forecasts, much like general weather forecasts. The atmosphere in which we live in and interact with changes relatively quickly, so concise and clear communication is needed in order to keep society safe.
Stay tuned as this article kicks off a new series of articles concerning air quality and meteorology.
To learn more about other interesting stories related to air quality, be sure to click on the following link: www.globalweatherclimatecenter.com/airquality
©2021 Meteorologist Alec Kownacki