Air in America: A world of contrasts and contradictions

Climatologically speaking, America is diverse. Air quality-wise it’s more of the same.

Wind turbines in the company of elliptical cloud formation, Tehachapi Pass, Calif.
Wind turbines in the company of elliptical cloud formation, Tehachapi Pass, Calif.

Weather-related, unusual or not, I vividly remember on at least one occasion the state of Arizona experiencing both the highest and lowest recorded temperatures in the nation for the same day. I seem to recall Phoenix earning the high-temp title while, I’m guessing, the low-temperature winner was either Holbrook or Snowflake. Truth be told, I can’t recall what the high and low temps were nor do I recollect the date that phenomenon occurred. I doubt that was the first time this had happened and it probably won’t be the last. At any rate, what a contrast if not a contradiction.

And I have to wonder if Arizona’s neighbor to the west – California – holds the distinction of being the only state in the union where the weather went from sunny to cloudy to rainy to snowy to foggy, all of which occurred in the matter of a relatively short distance (and period of time) from roughly Valencia, for all intents and purposes located at the base and south of the Grapevine, to Lebec, situated at the Tejon Pass summit. At the time I witnessed this climate anomaly I was driving to the San Joaquin Valley having traveled from Long Beach earlier that day.

Now if you think that’s something, get a load of this!

Air-quality-wise on November 6th, the day national elections were held, in California’s expansive San Joaquin Valley violations of both ozone and particle pollution occurred, adding injury to insult. Whether commonplace or not, if there is any place domestically where this kind of event would likely occur, the Valley would be it.

Data available at the California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (ARB) Web site shows that on that day the national 8-hour ozone standard was 0.079 parts per million. San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District Web site data similarly reveal that for Nov. 6th, based on 16 stations located on the Valley floor reporting (there was one other but it was located in the mountains south of Bakersfield so I excluded that one), I deternined the average over the 24-hour period for fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) to be 26.125 micrograms per cubic meter of air, more than double the California Annual Arithmetic Mean for this pollutant. The highest reading in the Valley that day was at Hanford in Kings County at 41 which exceeded the National 24-hour standard. California’s ambient air quality standards for ozone and PM 2.5, meanwhile, are more stringent than the national standards for reasons not too hard to imagine.

Standards for Ozone (in parts per million):

  • National 8-hour – 0.075
  • California 8-hour – 0.07
  • California 1-hour – 0.09

As for the health standard for fine particulates (PM 2.5) (in micrograms per cubic meter):

  • National 24-hour – 35
  • National Annual Arithmetic Mean – 15
  • California Annual Arithmetic Mean – 12

Any way you look at it, air in America, it’s nothing if it isn’t colorful and interesting and imperceptible if not puzzling all at the same time.

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