Of smoggy, smoky, sooty air/school-district response: What, are they kidding?! An update

Since posting “Of smoggy, smoky, sooty air/school-district response: What, are they kidding?!” also on Sept. 9, 2015 the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District issued an Air Alert. You can view the “Officials issue an Air Alert to extend through Friday: Public asked to reduce vehicle emissions during period of poor air quality” news release here.

From that release:

“The Valley air basin is in an Air Alert episode beginning today, Wednesday, September 9, 2015 through Friday, September 11, 2015. This includes the counties of San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and the Valley air basin portion of Kern Counties.

“The annual Air Alert program seeks to minimize ozone levels when conditions materialize that are conducive to ozone formation: high temperatures, sunny skies, stagnant air flow and increased emissions. Smoke from the Rough Wildfire burning in Tulare and Fresno Counties, high temperatures and an increase in vehicle traffic now that school is back in session are all contributing to very unhealthy air quality conditions in areas throughout the Valley. The Valley Air District is asking residents and businesses to reduce the emissions they are potentially contributing to these unhealthy conditions, and stay indoors if in an area impacted by poor air quality.”

Whereas in the air district’s Sept. 8, 2015 news release, basically a “cautionary statement,” whereby some of the news release information was aimed at schools and students as in “Air officials encourage the public to exercise caution and urge schools in affected areas to keep students inside,” like information was noticeably absent in the following day’s release other than the “… high temperatures and an increase in vehicle traffic now that school is back in session …” reference which, to me, given air quality conditions, seems odd.

Now, two days later, in Fresno, the skies are indeed bizarre. There is kind of an auburn glow in the sky, kind of like what appears right before the arrival of a rain storm. I don’t know quite what to make of it because there is no such storm in the area; like I said, it’s indeed bizarre.

I checked the Real-time Air Advisory Network (RAAN) readings for the 11 a.m. hour for Central Fresno and both fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) and ozone (O3) are at relatively low levels which seems strange given the color of the sky the way it is and a 172 (Unhealthy) forecast for Fresno today regarding ozone concentrations.

RAAN for PM 2.5 at 11 a.m. in Central Fresno reads 22 micrograms per cubic meter of air which places such in the moderate range or ROAR (Real-Time Outdoor Activity Risk) Level 2. On the previous day at the same time the reading was 27 micrograms per cubic meter, also in the moderate range. Meanwhile, RAAN for O3 in Central Fresno for the 11 a.m. hour was 18 parts per billion (ppb) and in the good range.

So, how the day develops temperature, weather and air quality wise remains to be seen. Just for confirmation, I decided to recheck the daily air quality forecast for Fresno County. Yep, it’s still an Unhealthy 172. It also remains to be seen how school recess, physical education and afterschool sporting events activities will be affected if they’ll be affected at all. Incidentally, at the noontime hour the O3 RAAN reading for Central Fresno is 42 ppb (in the good range). The fine particulate matter reading has climbed to 29 micrograms per cubic meter (in the moderate range). I would suspect that as the hours pass, that is, before daylight is eventually replaced by nightfall, O3 will continue to rise. High temperature for the area today, meanwhile, is forecast to be a sweltering 105 degrees.

– Alan Kandel

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