Ozone speak: Presentation matters

So, I discovered this “Healthy Air Living” report from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District called: “Item #7: Update on Ozone Air Quality Progress and Air Alert Initiative,” released Aug. 15, 2013. I thought it might shed some additional light.

A 21-page document and in it reference is made to both 1-hour and 8-hour ozone standards. There is also talk of exceedances. (Interestingly, when I type this word and it is correspondingly displayed on my computer’s screen, the word “exceedances” appears with a red line underneath it, indicating a mis-spelling).

I am assuming that the referenced “Healthy Air Living” document, is intended for readers who are familiar with phraseology like “county exceedance days,” “ozone peaks,” “ozone design value trend,” “meteorologically adjusted trend analysis” and “ultrafines and other pollutants,” (“ultrafines,” here again, underlined in red courtesy of my computer’s word-processing software), some real head-scratching, eyebrow-raising jargon if you want to know what I think.

Now add to this an apparent lack of explanation being given for other report information.

Take, for instance, the “County 1-Hour Ozone Exceedances” table on page 11.

Below the table presented is the following: “*Exceptional Event pending for exceedance day; **Values reflect the addition of new monitoring stations in recent years; ***2013 is a partial year”.

There is one number inside one box in the table with an * situated next to it. My guess is this is the “Exceptional Event pending for exceedance day.” I don’t believe I would be wrong. However, when it pertains to “Values reflect the addition of new monitoring stations in recent years,” does this mean all numbers in all table columns and rows? There is nothing in the table itself marked with double asterisks. Nor, is the column headed with “2013″ triple asterisked as one might expect. Yet, it is taken that 2013 is a partial year. So, there would appear to be some inconsistencies here. Incidentally, I have an asterisk of my own to add: *Additional inquiry suggested.

On page 2 is a progress report of sorts headed with the title: “Valley’s Ozone Levels Continue to Improve,” with the following bullet points:

  • Valley on the verge of attainment with 1-hr ozone standard (attainment possible in 2013)
  • 2012 recorded the lowest 8-hr ozone “design value” in District history
  • So far, 2013 continues to show ozone progress, despite heat episodes and wildfires
  • Benefits have come through implementation of numerous strategies, and billions of dollars of investment by Valley businesses.

With the clause “attainment possible in 2013,” what this tells me is that for the federal 1-hour ozone standard of 0.12 ppm (120 ppb) established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Feb. 8, 1979, the San Joaquin Valley is a non-attainment area (see: “Table of Historical Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)”). Meanwhile, on Jul. 18, 1997 and Mar. 27, 2008, the 8-hour standards of 0.08 ppm (80 ppb) and 0.075 ppm (75 ppb) were established, respectively.

Related to the page 2 report info., meanwhile, on the following page is the “Decreasing Ozone Trends” table. On the horizontal axis are yearly dates from 2003 to 2012 (2003 on the left and 2012 on the right) and on the vertical axis is “ppb” with the numbers 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 110 and 120 ascending from bottom to top with 120 the topmost number. Situated between 70 and 80 is a horizontal red dashed line representing the 2008 Standard of 75 ppb and situated between 80 and 90 is a horizontal blue dashed line representing the 1997 Standard of 84 ppb which is less stringent or protective of public health than the 2008 standard. A solid blue line is plotted toward the top with 2003’s reading being around 115 (ppb ozone) and 2012’s reading at somewhere around 97 or 98 (ppb ozone). What this has to do with is the “San Joaquin Valley 8-hour Ozone Design Value Trend.”

From this, while it appears there has been general improvement, both the 1997 and 2008 standards are both exceeded.

As for the “Healthy Air Living” report overall, I feel it would have been much more helpful and useful to provide greater explanation as in defining “Ozone Design Value Trend,” for example. That this report may be part of a larger series of reports, such information may be present.

Like I alluded to earlier, …

*Additional inquiry suggested.

About Alan Kandel

Alan turned hardscrabble technology related experience into a professional writing gig and has never looked back. Alan resides in California's heartland - the San Joaquin Valley.

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