Thursday, September 03, 2009

Smog Watch 2009: Some surprising news

Dirty-air days down, but widespread problems persist

The number of dirty-air days for smog has fallen almost by half in 2009. But it’s not all good news.

Here are some statistics of note:

Number of times the federal standard for ozone (75 parts per billion) has been breached in 2009, through August: 2,631.

Compared to the number during the same period of 2008: 5,022

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States with smog problems in 2009: 37 plus DC

Alabama
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
DC
Florida
Georgia
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Mississippi
Missouri
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New York
North Carolina
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Virginia
Washington
Wisconsin

**

Most polluted county: San Bernadino, CA=86 days. (78 at one monitoring station)

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Here are a few likely factors in the change from 2008:
Much of the drop from 2008 appears to be due to cooler, wetter weather which has inhibited smog formation or washed it away.

Here is an example of the weather phenomenon as described last month by a meteorologist with a Washington, D.C, tv station:

Much of the summer thus far has been noted by slightly cooler than average temperatures coupled with an active weather pattern that has yielded nearly daily chances of showers and storms. Compared to 2008 when we transitioned into a more “typical” D.C. summer pattern nearly on cue. Last years “typical” pattern consisted of hot and humid strings of days with a much lower daily opportunity for cleansing rains.

http://www.wjla.com/blogs/weather/d.c._air_quality_2008_vs._2009.html

At the same time, the federal Energy Information Administration reports that electricity sales (particularly from coal-burning electric power plants) are down. http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/flash/august2009.pdf

And the Federal Reserve has noted that industrial production has generally been down though there was a slight uptick in July.

http://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/g17/Current/

Although cars sales are down,the continuing turnover of the old fleet is leading to cleaner air because new cars meet tougher clean-air standards.

Some scientists are warning that global warming could make it more difficult to achieve clean-air standards in the future: http://www.nwf.org/extremeweather/

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