Air quality, meteorology: Though neither friends, nor foes, destined they are to be juxtaposed!

Like like magnetic forces that repel each other, air quality and meteorology would seem. We can see neither, yet, we know they’re there. Which makes describing their relationship – relationship, as in how they interact – difficult for one to put one’s finger on.

But, is all of this even important? I believe it is absolutely!

So let’s now have a look at each independent of the other. Sizing and summing up either or both of the brace of constructs accurately will be no easy undertaking, but I’ll give it the old college try, to use a familiar quote.

Air quality

Air quality has to do with the condition or state of air.

But, it’s more than that. In the Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, 1991 edition, the very first definition for “quality” is: “1. an essential characteristic, property, or attribute: the qualities found in great writing. 2. character or nature, as belonging to or distinguishing a thing: the quality of a color. 3. character with respect to grade of excellence or fineness: materials of poor quality. …” page 1103.

As it relates, when the American Lung Association releases its annual “State of the Air” report (look for this to come out next month) its focus will be on air condition (that is, the condition of the air) in all 50 states and in locations within those jurisdictions. Highlighted will be good and bad air alike: What are the hotspots for annual and 24-hour mean fine particulate matter as well as daily ozone averaged over 8 hours will be topics of coverage. If you reside in the United States, you can also get information about what the air-quality condition is like in your neck of the woods from this resource. Look for this and more.


One of meteorology’s definitions is “The science dealing with the atmosphere, weather, and climate,” this is according to the Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, 1991 edition. Meanwhile, the other is: “the atmospheric conditions and weather of an area,” p. 852.

Okay, so besides this notion of “atmospheric conditions,” I see that the more narrow sub-contexts of weather and climate have been introduced.

Like I said, this wasn’t going to be easy and it wasn’t.

But, let’s move on, shall we?

Life in the real world

So, it should be noted that there is nothing having to do with the definitions of meteorology that has anything at all to do with air quality.

But, in this, the real world, the two ideas aren’t always separate and distinct.

Take the situation that air quality in, for example, California’s San Joaquin Valley, is affected in several ways by area meteorology, one possible scenario being that meteorology can be and oftentimes is a factor in area air quality being poor or unhealthy or even hazardous. Meteorology in this sense could imply stagnant air, weather and quite possibly even climatic conditions. Or, it could be a case of the reverse, whereby air quality affects climatic or weather conditions as in air pollution like black carbon influencing cloud formation, which, in fact, can and does happen.

So, in this sense, there is a definite connection. And, as is plainly evident from the brace of examples given above, there is nothing separate and distinct here.

Which maybe explains why weather forecasts on broadcast news networks also by and large include air quality reports within or as part of them.

What I know is that whatever juxtaposition there is perceived to be between air quality and meteorology could just exist in the mind(s) of the person (people) doing the perceiving.

It’s nothing if not complicated (or even confusing), but, nonetheless, important if I do say so myself!

Last updated on Apr. 8, 2023 at 4:56 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

⁃ Alan Kandel

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