Headlines and updated news about air quality in USA by October 2020
Air quality holding up well despite fresh intrusion of wildfire smoke
Those wanting to get outdoors to enjoy what should be the last day to flirt with 80 degrees this year (we hope!) Wednesday should be able to do so without worrying about the air quality despite another intrusion of wildfire smoke.
As expected, a new round of smoke from new wildfires burning in California has made its trek north into the Pacific Northwest late Tuesday evening and it will keep the skies hazy through the day. But unlike the big event earlier this month that saw days of very unhealthy to hazardous air quality around the entire state, this layer of smoke is staying at higher altitudes and not reaching the ground.
Air quality measurements Wednesday morning continued to show widespread “Good” readings across the state. Forecasters with the state Department of Ecology suggest some areas may drift down into the “moderate” air quality category later in the day with perhaps a few spots into the “unhealthy for sensitive groups” stage but nothing like what happened last time the smoke made a visit.
Historically good summer for air quality in Virginia
Fewer cars on the road due to COVID-19 contributed to the best air quality since 2017.
Air quality in Virginia was historically good this year across the Commonwealth.
No unhealthy air quality readings were found at 22 of the 23 ozone pollution monitors set up by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Loudon County in Northern Virginia experienced one day with air considered to be “unhealthy for sensitive groups such as children, the elderly and those with heart or lung issues”.
This summer had 34 more “good” air quality days than the previous record “good” year in 2017.
Ground level ozone, which is unhealthy for people to breathe, happens as a result of motor vehicle exhaust, power plants, and industrial emissions. Ozone levels tend to be highest on hot, sunny days.
One possible explanation for the historically low levels is the COVID-19 pandemic, which means fewer commuters on the road as more people work from home. But air quality in Virginia has been improving steadily for years thanks to stricter environmental policies and restrictions on emissions.
“This year we experienced 50 percent more days with ‘good’ air quality than we’ve seen during the previous five years,” said Air and Renewable Energy Division Director Michael Dowd. “The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many drivers staying off the road and that has had an effect on Virginia’s low ozone readings; however, the low levels of pollution we are seeing this year are certainly in line with the long-term trend of lower ozone concentrations.”
2020 becomes another historic year for good air quality in Virginia
We can take all the good news we can get. In this case, it was the air quality in Virginia that’s been good in a historic way. The Virginia Department of Air Quality says the forecasting season for ozone pollution came to an end earlier this week, and it did so with 34 more ‘good’ air quality days than the previous record year in 2017.
In fact, 96% of ozone pollution monitors across the state never reported unhealthy air quality this year. The Loudon County sensor did once but only on one day.
David Paylor, Director of the DEQ, says, ““For too many years, we experienced extreme air pollution but through the development of more stringent pollution regulations and controls, I’m happy to say that ozone pollution isn’t the threat it used to be.” Paylor considers this to be a success story in Virginia.
Colorado Weather: More Smoke And Poor Air Quality As Drought Becomes Even Worse
Several fires burning northwest of the Denver metro area area will send smoke toward the Front Range again on Thursday causing air quality to suffer. Meanwhile the latest information on Colorado’s drought was just released and the data is grim.
As of early Thursday morning, 20 counties in Colorado and 3 counties in southeast Wyoming were under an Air Quality Alert because of wildfire smoke.
Other fires are also contributing smoke including the Cameron Peak fire 40 miles west of Fort Collins, the Middle Fork fire near Steamboat Springs, and the Williams Fork fire just northeast of Summit County.
DEQ issues air quality advisory through Saturday in Rogue Valley
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued an air quality advisory Wednesday for Southern Oregon and South Central Oregon due to smoke from wildfires in California and Oregon.
The following areas are under air quality advisories:
• Josephine, Jackson, Klamath and Lake counties through Saturday. Smoke is coming from wildfires in California.
• Warm Springs Reservation through Saturday. Smoke is coming from the Lionshead Fire.
Smoke and haze will be visible throughout much of Oregon, particularly along in the Willamette Valley and the Oregon Coast. However the air quality outside of Southern Oregon and South Central Oregon is not expected to reach unhealthy levels.
Air quality is affected most in Southern Oregon and South Central Oregon, but smoke and haze could be visible throughout much of the state.
DEQ and partner agencies will continue to monitor smoke levels in these areas and air quality across the state.
Smoke levels can change rapidly depending on weather. Check current conditions by visiting the Oregon Smoke Information Blog, downloading the free OregonAIR app on your smartphone, or going to on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Now.
Smoke can irritate the eyes and lungs and worsen some medical conditions. Young children, adults over 65, pregnant women and people with heart disease, asthma or other respiratory conditions are most at risk.
More detail here
Air quality in the Bay Area could worsen as winds drive wildfire smoke south
Air quality for much of the Bay Area was expected to worsen Thursday as smoke from the Glass Fire in Napa and Sonoma counties blows south, driven by winds that could gust up to 30 mph later in the day.
A Spare the Air alert — which has persisted for much of the week — is in effect until at least Friday.