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NOAA, EPA LAUNCH AIR QUALITY AWARENESS DAYS

NOAA image of NOAA / EPA expanded United States air quality forecasts.June 29, 2005 With summer vacations in full swing, the NOAA National Weather Service and the Environmental Protection Agency are launching Air Quality Awareness Days, June 29-July 1, to encourage Americans to check local air quality forecasts as they plan their daily activities. Recent forecast improvements by NOAA and EPA are making air quality forecasts more available to more people than ever before. (Click NOAA image for larger view of NOAA / EPA expanded United States air quality forecasts. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit “NOAA.”)

"Improving air quality forecasting abilities at the national level helps cities across the country provide their citizens the most accurate, up-to-date air quality predictions available," said Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), director of the NOAA National Weather Service. "These forecasts help millions of people protect their health on days when ozone levels are high."

Image of Environmental Protection Agency local air quality outlook map for June 30, 2005."Summer's arrival marks the heart of the ozone season," said Jeff Holmstead, EPA's assistant administrator for air and radiation. "Whether living in a city, suburb or in the country, air quality forecast information can help all Americans make important health decisions." (Click image for larger view of Environmental Protection Agency local air quality outlook map for June 30, 2005. Please credit “EPA.”)

Ozone pollution, also known as ground-level ozone, forms when pollutants from sources such as cars, power plants and industries "cook" in the sun. Ozone pollution can aggravate respiratory diseases, including asthma, and can reduce lung function. Even healthy people can have symptoms related to ozone exposure, so everyone should pay attention to air quality forecasts. State and local agencies issue official next-day air quality forecasts for more than 300 communities across the United States. These forecasts let citizens know what kind of air quality to expect the next day in their community.

Earlier this month, NOAA expanded its air quality forecast guidance, already used in the northeastern United States, to include the South and much of the Plains on an experimental basis. The new forecast capability is being built by a team of NOAA and EPA scientists who develop, test and implement improvements in the science of air quality forecasting for real-time predictions. The capability, which now covers more than half the U.S. population, will expand over the next decade to provide nationwide coverage, adding forecast information for particle pollution.

The NOAA National Weather Service forecast models drive simulations of atmospheric chemical conditions using pollutant emissions and monitoring data provided by the EPA. Twice daily, supercomputers operated by the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Prediction generate ground-level ozone predictions, which are available on EPA and NWS data servers. EPA also provides health and safety information along with a compilation of air quality alerts issued by state and local air quality forecasters.

The Environmental Protection Agency sets national air quality standards for ozone and other common air pollutants as part of its mission to protect public health and the environment. EPA established the Air Quality Index to inform the public about local air quality levels.

The NOAA National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. The NOAA National Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy.

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.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA National Weather Service/EPA Air Quality Forecasts

NOAA Air Quality Awareness Days

Media Contact:
Chris Vaccaro, NOAA National Weather Service, (301) 713-0622 ext. 134