Warmer days, potentially more pollution in store for Valley

We just got through a cold snap. Where I live, the overnight temperatures dipped down into the mid-to-upper 20s. Daytime highs, meanwhile, were in the 50s and, on some days, the 60s even. Next week, however, it’s a different story: daytime temps are expected to reach 70 degrees and this is for mid-December?!

Fireplace_Burning[1]As temperatures rise, this could spell trouble for Central Valley air.

Meanwhile, on the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District’s Web site, there are these two resources: “The Daily Air Quality Status and Forecast” and the RAAN, or “Real-Time Air Advisory Network.”

Relatedly, for Thursday, Dec. 12th, all up and down the Valley, the Air Quality Index (AQI) was in the “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” range, ranging from a low of 112 in Madera County to a high of 137 in Tulare, Kern and Stanislaus counties with Merced County situated in the Valley’s northern half, somehow managing to steer clear of that; its AQI in the range designated as “Moderate.” The forecast for today is more of the same, again with Merced County air projected to be only moderately polluted. The culprit is particulate matter (PM) pollution 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter.

Interestingly – and once more – a local television broadcast news reporter reporting on meteorological conditions for next week as it had to do with the forecasted 70 degree temperature – what could be a record-setting temperature for this particular day – exclaimed that such is “impressive!” Excuse me?!

At any rate, added to that report and coming from the same meteorologist no less was an admonition regarding wood-burning activity to “burn cleanly” in this area. Any time I hear this type of caution, what this says to me is the air is polluted. And, if that’s the case, why would any kind of wood-burning be allowed? So you know, the more restrictive “wood-burning prohibited” warnings get issued when PM 2.5 particulate matter concentrations are expected to rise above 30 micrograms per cubic meter of air on account of the added wood-burning activity, that is, if not having reached that concentration already.

For the Valley, what we’ve faced were freezing temperatures with somewhat better air to breathe and now what there is to look forward to, purportedly, is an unseasonably warm weather pattern with higher PM 2.5 readings expected. Choosing between the one and the other well, for me, that’s simple: I choose the former and any day of the week and twice on Sunday, thank you very much.

– Alan Kandel