A grim week for air quality in Delaware—and worse to come

Delaware is experiencing an ongoing "dangerous weather situation."

Monday (7/18/11):                official Code Orange day
Tuesday (7/19/11)                Code Yellow day (Delaware does not announce Code Yellow days)
Wednesday (7/20/11)           official Code Orange day
Thursday (7/21/11)               official Code Orange day
Friday (7/22/11)                    official Code Orange day

Bad air is likely to continue through the weekend.

The official interpretation of the Air Quality Index color codes is here.

As always, Green Delaware points out that this reporting system understates the health risk by considering air pollutants individually.   In reality, Code Orange pollutant levels for both particles and ozone equals at least a Code Red–unhealthy for everybody–level of hazard.

The combination of multiple pollutants, extreme high temperatures, high humidity, and airborne allergens (pollen) can be life-threatening.  The longer bad air continues, the more likely it is to damage our health.

National Weather Service Urgent Weather Message: as of 1:06 PM EDT on July 21, 2011 [excerpt]:

IMPACTS...THE COMBINATION OF HEAT AND HUMIDITY WILL CREATE
DANGEROUS HEAT INDEX VALUES. THIS WILL OCCUR RIGHT THROUGH
SATURDAY... AND EVEN CONDITIONS AT NIGHT WILL REMAIN VERY WARM
AND HUMID IN THE HIGHLY URBANIZED AREAS WHERE LOW TEMPERATURES
WILL NOT DROP BELOW 80 DEGREES.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

AN EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING MEANS THAT A PROLONGED PERIOD OF
DANGEROUSLY HOT TEMPERATURES WILL OCCUR. THE COMBINATION OF HOT
TEMPERATURES AND HIGH HUMIDITY WILL CREATE A DANGEROUS SITUATION 
IN WHICH HEAT ILLNESSES ARE LIKELY. DRINK PLENTY OF FLUIDS...
STAY IN AN AIR-CONDITIONED ROOM... STAY OUT OF THE SUN... AND
CHECK UP ON RELATIVES AND NEIGHBORS. KEEP YOUR PETS IN A COOL
LOCATION WITH PLENTY OF WATER AVAILABLE.


The Pollen forecast is Medium.

From the DNREC notice for Friday:

"Temperatures will reach near 100 degrees on Friday. Pollutant levels remain high today. Ozone is forecasted to reach well into the Code Orange range, while for the first time this summer fine particulate matter is forecasted to reach Code Orange levels as well. Poor air quality is expected to continue through the weekend."

"A Code Orange air quality forecast for ozone is a level of pollution that can be unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as young children, the elderly, and those with heart and/or respiratory conditions. Such persons should limit outdoor activities, especially those that require a high level of exertion."

Here’s a forecast:

State of Delaware Air Quality Forecast for:

Friday, July 22, 2011

_________________________________________________________

NORTHERN DELAWARE

(New Castle County including City of Wilmington)

Ozone:  CODE ORANGE (UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS)

Fine Particles (PM2.5): CODE ORANGE (UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS)

_________________________________________________________

SOUTHERN DELAWARE

(Kent and Sussex Counties including City of Dover)

Ozone:  CODE ORANGE (UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS)

Fine Particles (PM2.5): CODE ORANGE (UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS)

_________________________________________________________

Discussion:

Friday will be an Air Quality Action Day.

Temperatures near 100 F with high humidity and mostly clear skies will

combine with already high pollutant level from Thursday to create a poor air quality situation.

The National Weather Service has issued an Excessive Heat Warning for both Northern and Southern Delaware for both Friday and Saturday.  Please monitor the latest NWS forecasts for what is a dangerous weather situation.

Similar weather on Saturday with poor air quality continuing.  There is a better chance of thunderstorms late on Saturday into Sunday. Poor air quality is possible on Sunday as carry over from previous day pollutants and mostly clear skies are likely.

-Geiger

And a "mid-range" forecast:

Medium Range Air Quality Outlook

Mid-Atlantic Region

Issued:  Thursday, July 21, 2011

Valid:  July 22-26 (Friday-Tuesday)

Summary:

An extended poor air quality event is underway.  Code Orange to Code Red ozone is likely through Saturday with with a possibility of extending into Sunday.  Particle concentrations will remain in the high moderate range with local Code Orange hourly observations. The air quality event will likely end Monday into Tuesday as a strong frontal boundary moves through the region.

Take care.  And consider asking your elected officials to take stronger actions to improve air quality.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *