Smog alert ahead

Summer will soon be here and that can mean high levels of air pollutants in our air, specifically ozone and small particles, commonly known as smog.

Meteorologists declare “Air Quality Action” days when they project that weather conditions are conducive for unhealthy air pollution. In 2012, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) called 12 “action days” for the Susquehanna Valley.

We should heed those warnings. Recent scientific studies conclude that short-term exposure to unhealthy air pollution can have significant adverse effects on pregnant women, children, the elderly and even the general population — especially those with pre-existing conditions such as asthma.

Short-term symptoms resulting from breathing high levels of ozone and fine particulate are chest pain, coughing, nausea, throat irritation, and congestion. These pollutants also aggravate bronchitis, heart disease, emphysema, and asthma — and can increase risks of stroke.

Children, senior citizens, and those with asthma or other respiratory problems are urged to limit outdoor activities when an action day is predicted.

The quality of the air we breathe is a fundamental component of our overall health. The physiological effect of short-term ozone exposure is being unable to inhale to total lung capacity. Small particles, or PM 2.5, can be especially dangerous because they can travel deep into human tissue. Scientific studies over the last two decades have shown that exposure to high levels of PM 2.5 can raise the incidence of heart and pulmonary disease, cancer, infant mortality, low birth-weight babies, and even impaired cognitive function.

Air Quality Action days are often declared when there is little wind, and when the amount of ozone or particles in stagnant air could exceed federal health standards.

The DEP monitors local and regional air quality. Local television and radio stations alert the public to an Air Quality Action day prediction. Check your newspaper’s websites as well. The Clean Air Board of Central Pennsylvania also monitors pollution levels at its website, and posts notices when DEP declares an Air Quality Action day. Go to:

On Air Quality Action days, the public can take simple, voluntary actions to help reduce the chances of creating even more health-impairing pollution. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends 10 steps:

1. Instead of driving, share a ride, take public transportation, walk or bike.

2. If you must drive, avoid excessive idling or jack-rabbit starts, and try to consolidate errands.

3. Don’t refuel your car, or only do so after 7 pm.

4. Avoid using outboard motors, off-road vehicles, or other gasoline powered recreational vehicles.

5. Wait to mow your lawn until late evening or the next day. Also, avoid using gasoline-powered garden equipment.

6. Use latex paints instead of oil-based paints, solvents, or varnishes that produce fumes.

7. If you are barbecuing, use an electric starter instead of charcoal lighter fluid.

8. Limit or postpone your household chores that will involve the use of consumer products.

9. Conserve energy to reduce energy needs.

10. Keep your car well maintained to limit excess emissions.

As more scientists and public health officials have studied air quality, more links have discovered between pollution and illness. Our local monitoring and notification systems work like other public information systems that warn of danger and possible threats to our health. They work to protect us, and it is, therefore, wise to pay attention to them.

submitted to Sentinel by Thomas Au

Clean Air Board Community Meeting, March 7, 2013, 7 pm

“Looking Forward to Clean Air”

CAB will look at new developments under the federal Clean Air Act and under state regulations.  Arleen Shulman, former air resources planning chief at the state Department of Environmental Protection will speak to the board.

This meeting will be held at the Second Presbyterian Church, 528 Garland Drive, Carlisle, PA 17013, on March 7,  at 7 pm.   Join us for a discussion of this important topic.

Air Quality Action Day has been declared for Susquehanna Valley on Friday, Aug 24

Friday, Aug 24: 117 AQI Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups Ozone
80 AQI Moderate Particle Pollution (2.5 microns)

Extended Forecast
Saturday, Aug 25: 102 AQI Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups Ozone
78 AQI Moderate Particle Pollution (2.5 microns)
Current Conditions as of 1 PM on Thursday: You may have noticed that the weather this morning and so far this afternoon seem to be quite similar to yesterday. That is indeed the case as the trend in the weather this week has been for similar conditions to repeat themselves, with only a slight change. That slight change each day has been morning patchy fog becoming mostly sunny skies by late morning, temperatures rising a degree or two higher than the previous day, and Ozone and PM 2.5 concentrations climbing higher and higher. The threat for Code ORANGE conditions will continue into at least Friday before becoming more scattered Code ORANGE to moderate over the weekend. *** Friday’s Forecast: On Friday, the broken record of the weather this week once again repeats itself with patchy morning fog quickly burning off to provide mostly sunny skies under an area of high pressure. The trend for rising temperatures and air quality concentrations will continue as well. Forecast highs should climb into the mid to upper 80s, which is slightly above normal for late August. The high moderate to Code ORANGE Ozone concentrations from Thursday will continue to slowly become more modified on Friday, climbing higher into the Code ORANGE level. Nearly calm winds all week have allowed for these concentrations to slowly become more modified each day due to a lack of vertical mixing that we would see on days with a strong afternoon breeze. It has been several days since we have had a frontal passage or increased precipitation threat to also allow for this period of stagnation to occur. PM 2.5 concentrations have also been slowly climbing, but have and will continue to remain moderate with low moisture levels present. Dew point temperatures will remain in the lower 60s as a result of the low moisture. An increasing chance for stronger easterly flow on Saturday may be able to help us reverse the trend from this week. *** Extended Forecast: Saturday appears to begin a tricky forecast period as we may see a wide range of conditions across the region that will impact the air quality forecast for the next several days. An area of low pressure is likely to develop off the coast and approach the coast line. This system will provide a chance for some showers along with cloud cover for a portion of the east coast. High clouds may extend far enough to the west to cover the entire forecast region. If they stay more to the east, ample sunshine again on Saturday may create high moderate to Code ORANGE concentrations for the locations in the region furthest to the west. More eastward sites would likely see more moderate concentrations. Easterly flow associated with this system may bring stronger onshore flow to provide more mixing than we have experienced over the last several days. I believe at this point the current air mass over the region is modified enough that it will take some time to improve air quality greatly. While conditions may become more moderate over the weekend, our next best threat for precipitation and a change in the air mass will come in the Monday/Tuesday timeframe. The outcome of current Tropical Storm Isaac will play a role in air quality conditions for the middle to latter half of next week. The computer models do not have a solution yet as to exactly where Isaac will track and make landfall or if the system will stall out over the Southeast vs. jet back out to sea and off to the northeast. — Roble

This forecast is brought to you by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) and the Air Quality Partnership of the Susquehanna Valley.

Air Quality Action Day has been declared for Susquehanna Valley, on Thursday, Aug 23

Thursday, Aug 23: 110 AQI Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups Ozone
77 AQI Moderate Particle Pollution (2.5 microns)

Extended Forecast
Friday, Aug 24: 117 AQI Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups Ozone
80 AQI Moderate Particle Pollution (2.5 microns)
Current Conditions as of 2 PM on Wednesday: Mostly sunny skies with a few scattered clouds overhead this Wednesday afternoon are providing another quite pleasant day outside for this week. High pressure hanging around for a few days over the east/northeast US will lead to more of a repetitive forecast for our region. While most weather eyes are now fixated in the tropics with the development of Isaac, air quality eyes around here will be fixated on deteriorating conditions as we progress further through the week with light winds and sunny skies yielding moderate to Code ORANGE air quality conditions. *** Thursday’s Forecast: On Thursday, mostly sunny skies continue with high pressure hanging around at the surface. The ongoing trend for this week so far has been that temperatures have risen slightly from day to day, and so have both Ozone and PM 2.5 concentrations. This trend will continue on Thursday with temperatures climbing into the low 80s, PM 2.5 levels remaining in the moderate range, and Ozone concentrations approaching the Code ORANGE threshold. Patchy fog in the morning hours again will burn off rather quickly to allow ample sunshine through to the surface. The Ozone formation associated with the sunshine will only add to an already modified air mass that has sat overhead the past few days to produce these Code ORANGE concentrations. With dew point temperatures remaining on the dry side, in the lower 60s, PM 2.5 levels will remain moderate due to a lack of mixing with the more stagnant air flow and only rise slightly. *** Extended Forecast: Similar conditions will continue for Friday as high pressure remains in control over the region. Temperatures will climb into the low to mid 80s with moderate PM 2.5 concentrations continuing. High moderate to Code ORANGE Ozone levels are expected once again with even more sunshine and minimal wind flow. These conditions will continue into the weekend with moderate PM 2.5 and moderate to Code ORANGE Ozone concentrations continuing the slow increase trend. Temperatures will move more into the mid 80s for the weekend with a slight rise in dew point temperatures. An approaching cold front sometime early next week will be our best hope to end this poor air quality event. — Roble

Air Quality Action Day has been declared for Susquehanna Valley, PA, on Friday, Aug 3


Friday’s Forecast
Friday, Aug 3: 127 AQI Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups Ozone
60 AQI Moderate Particle Pollution (2.5 microns)

Extended Forecast
Saturday, Aug 4: 100 AQI Moderate Ozone
65 AQI Moderate Particle Pollution (2.5 microns)
Friday’s Forecast: Hot and humid conditions will be in store for Friday under mostly sunny skies. Forecast highs are expected to reach the mid 90s as high pressure overhead keeps rain out of the forecast for the day. Ozone concentrations that were on the rise Thursday afternoon should rise once again, though rise even higher to reach Code Orange levels. A light south/southwesterly breeze will help transport a more modified air mass into the region from the Washington DC/Baltimore region, which will only further add to the threat to see Code Orange readings. The south/southwesterly flow will also keep dew point temperatures riding in the upper 60s to low 70s. Even though PM 2.5 concentrations have been mainly good throughout the week, I believe the incoming flow from that direction should force levels to reach just inside the moderate range on Friday. The moderate levels for PM 2.5 should carry over into Saturday with a possibility that Code Orange levels of Ozone will do the same. *** Extended Forecast: Hot and humid conditions will continue on Saturday, with mostly sunny skies early in the day. The main difference between Friday and Saturday will be that there will be a greater probability for afternoon convection to develop more clouds as well as some scattered showers and thunderstorms. More cloud cover and some scattered thunderstorms would limit how high Ozone concentrations would climb. With an already modified air mass in place, it is still possible that a few locations reach Code Orange levels once again. Other sites will likely only reach the moderate range. PM 2.5 concentrations will continue to sit in the moderate range as more moisture transports into the region while winds continue to blow from the south/southwest. Forecast highs will once again climb into the 90s, though range from the lower to mid 90s dependent on the amount of cloud cover that develops. An even greater threat for thunderstorms will come on Sunday, as a strong cold front approaches from the west. This front will not arrive until late in the day, so Ozone concentrations may begin to climb in the early afternoon before the main threat for precipitation begins to develop. If the increase in clouds and thunderstorms arrive later in the afternoon, there may be just enough time for Ozone concentrations to approach the Code Orange range again. Moderate levels are more likely to occur, however. PM 2.5 levels should again remain moderate until after the frontal passage, where they will then decline into the good range for the early part of next week. Temperatures are likely to reach near 90 degrees before the front’s arrival on Sunday, with closer to normal highs of mid to upper 80s coming behind the front. Ozone concentrations will also return more to the good to moderate range after the front passes, ending the threat for Code Orange levels. — Roble

Here are some Air Quality Action Day tips you can follow to help reduce pollution:

Days when ozone levels are expected to be high:

* Conserve electricity and set your air conditioner at a higher temperature.
* Choose a cleaner commute—share a ride to work or use public transportation. Bicycle or walk to errands when possible.
* Refuel cars and trucks after dusk.
* Combine errands and reduce trips.
* Limit engine idling.
* Use household, workshop, and garden chemicals in ways that keep evaporation to a minimum, or try to delay using them when poor air quality is forecast.

Days when particle pollution levels are expected to be high:

* Reduce or eliminate fireplace and wood stove use.
* Avoid using gas-powered lawn and garden equipment.
* Avoid burning leaves, trash and other materials.


This forecast is brought to you by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) and the Air Quality Partnership of the Susquehanna Valley.

* For more information on the health effects of PM 2.5 and ozone, visit the EPA Airnow website.
* To see the current forecast and monitoring information for the Southwest PA Region, visit us online at the PA DEP Forecast and Monitoring Site.
* To find out more information about the Air Quality Partnership of the Susquehanna Valley, visit the AQP of SV Website.

Air Quality Action Alert for Friday, July 6 in Susquehanna Valley

Friday, Jul 6: 110 AQI Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups Ozone
55 AQI Moderate Particle Pollution (2.5 microns)
Current Conditions as of 2 PM on Tuesday: A weak area of high pressure that was overhead this morning has begun to move north and east. This system was responsible for the mostly sunny skies that we had seen earlier today. This system is being forced northeast by an approaching warm front. The warm front, associated with a low pressure system currently sitting over central Canada, will pass through this evening bringing showers and a possible thunderstorm overnight and into Wednesday. ***Independence Day Forecast: Partly cloudy skies, but hot and humid with a high in the mid-90s. Spotty showers and the chance for convective storm development remain for most of the mid-week holiday. A cold front, also associated with the low, will drive the warm front northeast and have its chance to pass through the region Wednesday afternoon. Depending on how widespread these storms are, Code Orange air quality is possible. With the combination of westerly transport, high dew points, and temperatures remaining above seasonable, both ozone and PM 2.5 will be on the rise into at least the moderate range. ***Thursday’s Forecast: Following that secondary frontal passage, a large area of high pressure will bring an end to any remaining showers on Thursday morning. The chance for some convective storm activity remains for the afternoon as we transition between systems. A drier air mass will be in store as winds turn northwesterly around the circulation of the high that will settle in. Mostly sunny skies and temperatures above normal are expected. Some inconsistencies among the models are leaving air quality levels questionable. PM 2.5 should remain in the low to mid-moderate range as dew points dip back into the mid-60s and northwesterly winds limit transport. On the other hand, ozone holds the potential of reaching Code Orange depending on the arrival time and positioning of the high pressure system. For now, expect upper moderate levels. Stay tuned as the forecast will updated as necessary. ***Extended Outlook: Friday will again be mostly sunny with a high in the low 90s. We can expect to see Code Orange levels reached throughout the forecast area. PM concentrations will be limited to the upper good threshold on Friday as northerly transport will be in control. Similar conditions are expected for Saturday until a frontal system passes through in the evening. This frontal passage should occur late Saturday and bring showers overnight. We may see some lingering showers on Sunday, but should quickly clear out by noon. This will allow both ozone and PM to settle back into the moderate range. Expect a clear and comfortable start to next week as temperatures dip back to seasonable following the frontal passage. –Brown


This forecast is brought to you by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) and the Air Quality Partnership of the Susquehanna Valley.

* You can follow the Susquehanna Valley air quality forecast on Follow the Susquehanna Valley air quality forecast on Twitter and Follow the Susquehanna Valley Air Quality Partnership on Facebook


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