The longer the day, the more energy enters the atmosphere
Who doesn’t love summer? Splashing in the pool, spending time outdoors and long walks on the beach are things we look forward to this time of the year. Summer officially begins June 21st, which is the longest day of the year.
However, these longer days mean more energy from the sun is beating down on Indiana. That energy from sunlight mixes with emissions from vehicles and industrial plants, producing ozone in our lower atmosphere.
While ozone high in the stratosphere protects us from the sun’s harmful ultra-violet (UV) rays, when ozone is created down where we live, it can make breathing difficult for some people.
As weather predictions point to a condition that is favorable for this ozone to accumulate, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) will issue ‘air quality action days’.
What can I do to reduce ozone?
An air quality action day is declared when IDEM’s meteorologists have looked at weather patterns, cloud forecasts, and other data to determine that a certain period of time will likely see higher ozone levels than normal for a particular area.
However, just because an air quality action day has been declared, it doesn’t mean ozone levels have to rise high enough to affect people. In fact, this is where you come in.
Whenever there is an air quality action day for your area, doing the following will reduce the chance the air you breathe will become unhealthy.
1. Drive only when necessary. Fewer vehicles emissions in the air mean fewer compounds that can turn into ozone when the sun’s heat bakes down on them. Instead of driving; walk, ride your bike, or just lounge around at home. If you have to work that day, take the bus in or carpool. If you live close to your job, think about walking or biking to work. That way you can stay healthy, while reducing air pollution.
2. When filling up your vehicles with fuel, do so after 7 p.m. When you gas up your car, vapors that escape can react with the sun to produce ozone. After seven o’clock, there is less energy in the atmosphere to create this reaction.
3. Speaking of things you shouldn’t do before seven o’clock, mowing your lawn is another one. Even though your lawn mower motor is likely smaller than your car’s, it has a less sophisticated emissions control system, so it likely pollutes more than a modern automobile.
4. Don’t idle your vehicle. Instead of using the drive through lane, park your car and go inside to pick up your food.
What about other pollutants in the air?
Air quality action days are also called if fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) is at levels that can interfere with some people’s health. These tiny particles are the result of vehicle emissions, burning coal or wood, and some industrial processes. PM 2.5 refers to the size of the particles which are 2.5 microns in width or smaller. These particles create a hazy, foggy cloud over an area.
Like ozone, the prevalence of PM 2.5 is closely tied to the weather forecast. IDEM meteorologists look especially at wind patterns and temperature changes to determine if PM 2.5 levels are likely to be high for a certain day. Hot days with stagnant air are more likely to become air quality action days. The same methods of preventing ozone help to prevent an increase of PM 2.5 in the air as well.
SmogWatch is an informational online tool created by IDEM to share air quality forecasts for each day. It provides daily information about ground-level ozone and particulate matter air quality forecasts, health information, and monitoring data for seven regions of Indiana. You can find it at: http://www.IN.gov/apps/idem/smog/.
Find out more
During this time of the year, doing your part to reduce ozone and PM 2.5 will make Indiana a healthier, happier place for us all to live in! More information on how to reduce ozone can be found at: http://www.idem.IN.gov/4130.htm.