Air Quality Forecast Guidance Now Operational In Additional States

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS) and EPA have moved air quality forecast guidance from an experimental effort to operational in an additional 15 states. The expanded operational guidance helps state and local agencies to issue enhanced and more geographically specific ozone air quality warnings to the public.

Operational guidance that once covered the Northeastern United States now includes all or parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas.

"We look forward to the benefits from the enhancement on ozone air quality warnings and its contributions toward strengthening the Global Earth Observation System of Systems," said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr., PhD, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "This new experimental operational guidance brings us a step closer to having true global coverage of the Earth's changing environment."

"This expanded capability will help improve ozone air quality forecasts for an increased number of areas across the United States and that will make a real difference in people's lives, especially children and people with asthma or other respiratory problems," said Bill Wehrum, EPA's acting assistant administrator for Air and Radiation.

This summer's hot, sunny weather provided rigorous testing conditions, with several episodes of poor air quality from build-up of ground-level ozone. Improved air quality forecast algorithms for cloudy conditions also demonstrated target forecast accuracy during several months of real-time testing and evaluation.

Now for the entire eastern half of the United States, the Air Quality Forecast capability provides hour-by-hour ozone forecasts through midnight of the following day, in a graphical representation at a five-kilometer mesh resolution. The capability provides information for urban and rural communities alike, with geographic specificity much greater than currently possible with metro area-wide alerts issued for participating communities. This information is posted on NOAA and EPA data servers, available to the public and state and local air quality forecasters.

NOAA's National Weather Service weather forecast models are used to drive simulations of atmospheric chemical conditions using pollutant emissions and monitoring data provided by EPA. Twice daily, early in the morning and early afternoon, operational supercomputers at NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction produce ground-level ozone forecasts available on NWS and EPA data servers.

The expanded ozone forecast guidance is one of the steps in building a national Air Quality Forecast capability that will continue to grow over the next decade. Coverage will expand to the entire nation within four years. The Air Quality Forecast capability is being built by a team of NOAA and EPA scientists who are developing, testing and operationally implementing improvements in the science of air quality prediction for real-time predictions. Once ozone forecasts are available throughout the United States, the capability will be extended to include particulate matter forecasts, then cover longer time periods (day two and beyond) and eventually, additional pollutants.



NOAA's National Weather Service:

NOAA's Air Quality forecast guidance:

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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