Potpourri: A valley ‘view’ on weather, temperature, air-quality reporting and one other thought

This is in no way a reflection on others’ ability to report on air-quality condition. But, if I want the latest on the status of local or regional or local and regional air quality, all bets are on that I will access one online resource in particular, thank you very much: the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District’s “Daily Air Quality Forecast.” I have never known, in my experience, for such to be off.

Now, when it comes to temperature reporting, on the other hand, at times I’ve noticed such to be just that – off. Not intentionally reported that way, but still.

ShipTracks_MODIS_2005may11[1]As a case in point, on May 28, 1984, and I remember this like it happened yesterday, according to one local broadcast T.V. news weather-reporting personality, the predicted high that day in Fresno was 98 degrees, as so announced. Suffice to say what a relief that would have been from the previous day’s 100-degree-plus temps. But it was not to be. For the high temperature that May 28 day was a scorching 107.

And, why would I know this? For one, it was two days before I was to enroll in college in a post-graduate degree program, and on that 28th day in May, I headed for them thar Sierra hills to get some relief from the Valley’s at-the-time oppressive heat and, upon my return, it was then that I learned what the true high temp that afternoon turned out to really be. Just to be clear, no way do I blame the person whose job it was to report on meteorological matters on a local broadcast T.V. newscast; it is just one of those things that happen. By the way, rain forecasting is even more imprecise or so it would seem.

Now, if I had to choose between weather/temperature and air-quality reporting and which I believe to be the more reliable of the two, my vote goes to air-quality reporting any day of the week and twice on Sunday, as the expression goes.

Does this mean that reporting on matters dealing with air quality is never imprecise? I’d be lying if I said it was. It is certainly within the realm of possibility that on the day of the forecasted 98 degrees, but instead was 107, that what was predicted for air-quality condition or the Air Quality Index (if such existed back then) was off the mark that day as well, even if only slightly. I mean, you just never know.

All is not as it seems or what one would expect always. Here’s what I’m talking about.

The two main pollutants of concern in California’s San Joaquin Valley are ozone and fine particulate matter (PM 2.5 – tiny bits of soot, debris and chemical droplets at times, less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, small enough to penetrate lungs and enter the bloodstream and, as it relates to such, could very well be a factor in the development of stroke, lung cancer and premature death). Fine particulate matter pollution is typically an issue during times when temperature/weather is cooler/colder while ozone typically is troublesome during warmer/hotter climes. Notice I said “typically.”

Photo courtesy PDPhoto.org
Photo courtesy PDPhoto.org

It is not uncommon for PM 2.5 in the air to exceed standards during the Independence Day holiday – July 4th, at least here in the San Joaquin Valley. As a matter of fact, on this day in 2011 the concentration of fine particulates in the air in Turlock, located in the north valley, reached a high by 11 p.m. of 150 micrograms per cubic meter of air which corresponds to a value on the Air Quality Index of at least 214 – a “very unhealthy” reading. The 24-hour standard for PM 2.5 is 35 micrograms per cubic meter. This is the national health standard.

I remember well the time in Fresno, meanwhile, as on the following morning, upon looking out my front window I discovered the air replete with the remnants of the previous night’s fireworks activity thereby producing the downright putrid-looking greyish-colored haze. It is conditions like this that you just don’t forget. The next year I made it a point to be on the central California coast during the July 4th celebration which I did.

‘What I like about the valley’

So, maybe I understand now why when people here are asked what they like about living in the San Joaquin Valley, often comes the response: “The reason I like the Valley is because it’s located an hour from the (Sierra Nevada) mountains (by car) and a couple hours from the coast.” Could it be that that kind of response is due to a loathing of air quality by people here and that the quality of air here leaves much to be desired so unlike the appeal of the coast and mountains?

While that may not be an entirely accurate assessment in that it may not reflect an overarching sentiment in these here parts there, nevertheless, has to be a reason people say such things. Then again, if this question were asked of residents in Carmel, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, etc., I might just hear a similar response, one like: “It’s close to the coast.”

Upper image above: NASA

– Alan Kandel