Today, Monday May 15th, brought air quality alerts or Ozone Action Days to a few major metropolitan areas in the southern US. High pressure anchored across the south has set up conditions favorable for the formation of ground based ozone. Ozone Action Days can be declared by a local municipality’s, counties or by individual states. Weather conditions like heat, humidity and air stagnation with plenty of sunshine can lead to poor air quality with an increase of ground ozone.
While the Ozone layer located in the stratosphere and troposphere protects us from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, ozone that forms at ground level can be dangerous.
This ground based ozone formed through a complex set of chemical reactions involving hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and sunlight on calm, warm and humid summer days.
Ozone is formed through chemical reactions between natural and man-made Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) during daylight hours. These VOCs and NOx can come from many sources including cars, boats, refineries, chemicals, solvents and by combusting natural gas, gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene, and oil.
High concentrations of ground ozone can cause shortness of breath, coughing, headaches, nausea, eye and throat irritation, and even lung damage. People who suffer from conditions like asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, emphysema, should lessen the time they spend outdoors during Ozone Action Days. You can help the situation on poor air quality days by not using combustion engines, propane grills, lawn mowers or other activities that can add VOCs and NOx to the atmosphere.
For Weather Nation: Meteorologist Mike Morrison