Keeping it real and relevant: Air quality reporting

I love how when I’m watching local broadcast T.V. news, especially during the weather segment, the on-air meteorologist proceeds to tell viewers about this, that and the other (weather-related, of course) and in the background, meanwhile (behind the person doing the reporting or in a separate frame), the on-screen image is, what else?! our fair city, Fresno, cloaked in haze. (This is quite common in this area). The hazy sky is what my eyes focus on, naturally. (On at least one local television station, during weather broadcasts, what Fresno viewers frequently see on screen is not only what the weather is in this neck of the woods, but weather-wise, what is going on in a number of other area cities too. This is facilitated through placement of strategically city located/mounted cameras).

On occasion and issued via an accompanied voice-over, comes the perfunctory or obligatory remark on the scene shown. For those curious, here’s an example: “If only there were a disturbance in the atmosphere like a strong wind or rain to blow out all that polluted air.”

Good response. Not! Hey weather guy/gal, News Flash: how about an on-air comment encouraging people to drive less, for one? I, personally, don’t think that is asking for too much, do you?

ShipTracks_MODIS_2005may11[1]Furthermore, saying something like: “Hey, can’t wait to get a mixing of the atmosphere to blow out all the polluted air so we can again see the Sierra Nevada Mountains,” the danger in doing this, as I see it, is that there is potential for people hearing sound bites like this to fall into the trap of thinking or believing that weather in the form of either wind or rain is the solution to cleaning the air, when, in fact, what really is needed is solving for what led to the pollution being present in the first place.

Anyway, this is just one example.

As if this weren’t enough, another time I heard on air during, yes, a weather report, reference made to a gorgeous or glorious or magnificent or spectacular sunset. What wasn’t conveyed was the reason behind that “blazing red ball in the sky,” the scene on the viewing screen. Great. The air is laden with toxins, but, do we hear about that? Nope.

Meanwhile, on many a news broadcast during the weather reporting segment, when it’s time for the air quality low-down, displayed, presented is a graphic indicating the Air Quality Index. To go along with this are a group of numbers shown usually for coverage-area counties with corresponding colors and maybe words accompanying those colors such as “moderate” (yellow) and “sensitive” (amber or orange). If the area air is really bad, and we’re talking “unhealthy” (in the red zone), the kind that’s unhealthful enough to prompt an “air pollution alert” or “bad air alert,” a more in-depth report on air quality, typically with experts in the field providing comment, may accompany or precede the weather coverage.

Overall, in my region, air quality reporting on broadcast T.V. news is just okay. My opinion, of course. And when it comes to corresponding commenting, there is barely any at all, and what there is often is cursory. At least, this is my impression. Come on, you tell me.

Oh, and as for said reporting a few weeks ago, I repeatedly heard how area fires were impacting San Joaquin Valley air. You could have fooled me. Upon stepping foot outside, no smell of smoke, anywhere. What’s more, I was even harder-pressed to find more than just a hint of particulate matter pollution in the air. Logging on to the local air district’s web site, with the online tools that I accessed, indications were there were levels of ozone in the air exceeding acceptable limits/thresholds. Fine particulate matter, that was another story. Readings during this period were, for the most part, well within the good range. At worst, on some occasions, moderate levels were recorded. Not the case in summer 2015, when during the Rough Fire in eastern Fresno County, I actually smelled smoke in the air here in Fresno due to it having reached the Valley floor.

I’m not for sure when air quality data and information first started being broadcast as part of local weather reporting. As long as air quality is going to be reported, then that reporting should be the best it can possibly be in order to do the greatest amount of good. What works for me is more of the substantive stuff and less of the superfluous fluff.

So, who’s game?

Image above: NASA

1 thought on “Keeping it real and relevant: Air quality reporting”

  1. “..what really is needed is solving for what led to the pollution being present in the first place.”

    I totally agree, we need to look at the pollution source. Good article Alan Kandel.

    Here in Tasmania there is a system in place which allows planned burners to bid each day to allow the MAXIMUM amount of particulates into an airshed. Go figure.

    “When you can’t breathe nothing else matters.”

Leave a Comment