NOAA Ozone Forecasting Tool Now Includes Western U.S.

Experimental forecast guidance for ground-level ozone will now be provided for the western half of the contiguous United States -- a total of 17 states from the Plains to the Pacific Coast, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced on June 20.

This is in addition to the air-quality-forecast guidance currently available for the eastern half of the United States.

"This new forecast guidance will provide accurate projections of ozone levels near the ground, linked to our weather forecast models," said Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), director of NOAA's National Weather Service. "Weather and air quality go hand-in-hand. Daily weather conditions, such as temperature and wind, play an integral role in creating and trapping harmful ozone where we all work, play and breathe."

Hour-by-hour ozone forecasts, through midnight of the following day, are available online, providing information for the onset, severity and duration of poor air quality for more than 290 million people from coast to coast. This product also serves as a tool that local and state air quality forecasters can use when creating daily air-quality outlooks and issuing poor-air alerts.

"Air quality forecasts can help Americans reduce their exposure to ozone pollution, which is a special concern for children and people with asthma and other lung diseases," said Bill Wehrum, acting assistant administrator for EPA's office of air and radiation. "This expanded tool will help improve forecasts for cities across the country."

Following several months of testing, the forecast guidance for the western United States will be evaluated for addition to the full suite of National Weather Service operational products.

"This new experimental guidance expands coverage westward to the Pacific Ocean and will enable additional state and local agencies to issue enhanced and more geographically specific ozone-based air quality warnings to the public," said Paula Davidson, program manager for air quality forecasting with NOAA's National Weather Service.

States included in this experimental expansion are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, and the remaining western portions of Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas. The eastern halves of these states were included in last year's expansion into the central United States. Air quality forecast guidance was first implemented into operations for the northeast quadrant of the United States in 2004.

The air quality forecast capability is being built by a team of NOAA and EPA scientists that develop, test and implement improvements in the science of air quality forecasting for real-time predictions. National Weather Service forecast models are used to drive simulations of atmospheric chemical conditions using pollutant emissions and monitoring data provided by EPA. Twice daily, supercomputers operated by NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction produce ground-level ozone forecasts, which are available on National Weather Service and EPA data servers.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

NOAA: http://www.noaa.gov

NOAA Air Quality Guidance (operational): http://www.weather.gov/aq

NOAA Experimental Guidance for western United States: http://www.weather.gov/aq-expr

NOAA/EPA Air Quality Awareness: http://www.airquality.noaa.gov

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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