2016 San Joaquin Valley air pollution half-year report

There is no question summer has arrived. In fact, where I live in Fresno, the season has come on like gangbusters.

Yesterday’s temperature reached 102. Today, the temperature is forecast to be hotter. On broadcast television news, I noticed a high temp for Palm Springs, California on Monday, if I recall correctly, was 123!

Relatedly, the El Nino effect, expected this year to have been strong (which it was), and hence produce abundant rains (abundant for this region, that is), as a matter of fact, did just that. Season-to-date rainfall total for Fresno is 14.29 inches – definitely an above-average year for precipitation. The rain-year begins Oct. 1st and runs through Sept. 30th.

Compare this to the entire season last year (Oct. 1, 2014 to Sept. 30, 2015) for the city in that just 6.81 inches fell, well below 11.5 inches, what is considered for this area to be average or normal. Even with the additional rain this season all across the state, California is not out of the drought woods yet – the state and west now experiencing a fifth dry year.

Disquieting though this may be, add to that poor air quality throughout the San Joaquin Valley. Yesterday, in places, such was in the range deemed unhealthy for sensitive groups. If that wasn’t bad enough, today in much of the Valley, air is expected to be worse: unhealthy for everyone – at the highest site a lung-searing 156 on the Air Quality Index. Ozone or O3, the culprit pollutant or emission of concern, can be blamed.

Looking on the bright side, so far, there were fewer days this year with pollution exceeding national standards than there were last. A greater mixing of the atmosphere no doubt was a contributing factor. But with summer now here, this could change. As it has to do with this, by year’s end, so much more will be known.

As it relates, it is probably best to err on the side of caution and do one’s utmost when it comes to water conservation. Add to this that lack of abundant rain next season and/or wind could mean worse air quality levels.

So, now for some numbers and year-to-year comparisons:

Ozone – San Joaquin Valley Air Basin

– Daily Max 8 Hr Overlapping Avg – Nat’l at Highest Site – Mar. to Oct. 2015 (Nat’l. Ambient Air Quality Std.: 75 parts per billion of air): 82 exceedance days

– Daily Max 8 Hr Overlapping Avg – Nat’l at Highest Site – Mar. 20 to Jun. 19 2015: 23 exceedance days

– Daily Max 8 Hr Overlapping Avg – Nat’l at Highest Site – Mar. 20 to Jun 19 2016: 15 exceedance days

PM 2.5 – San Joaquin Valley Air Basin

– Daily Avg PM2.5 at Highest Site – Sept. 20 to Dec. 19 2015 (Nat’l Ambient Air Quality Std.: 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air): 13 exceedance days

– Daily Avg PM2.5 at Highest Site – Nov. 1, 2014 to Feb. 28, 2015: 56 exceedance days

– Daily Avg PM2.5 at Highest Site – Nov. 1, 2015 to Feb. 28, 2016: 27 exceedance days

California ozone region data can be found here while hourly, daily, weekly and year-to-date Golden State ozone data can be had here.


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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