'Airing' on the Side of Protecting Human and Ecosystem Health
Posted: November 30, 2009
As late as the 1990s, access to uncomplicated and reliable information about daily air quality in U.S. communities was unavailable to the public. Then, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and EPA, began working together to provide the public throughout the lower 48 states with local, timely and accurate daily forecasts of ozone and particulate matter pollution.
The EPA-NOAA collaborative venture began in 2003 when a formal agreement between the two was established to develop a computer modeling system with the capacity to provide forecasts of air quality on a national basis. Early on, the complexities associated with a multi-pollutant atmosphere became more evident; it would be a major project to provide accurate, easily understood, and dependable information, and to do it in near real-time.
Working closely together, the scientists methodically began linking EPA's national emissions inventory, Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model, and national air quality monitoring databases with NOAA's national weather forecasting models and databases . In 2003 the system was successfully deployed with the capacity to forecast ground-level ozone pollution over the northeastern United States.
Through a series of phased model development and evaluation activities and collaborations with several federal, state, local, and academic entities, the national air quality forecasting capability continued expanding its modeling and visualization tools. The EPA-NOAA modeling team also laid the groundwork that enabled the system to provide predictions of both ozone and fine particulate matter.
Today when state and local air quality forecasters use NOAA's National Weather Service forecasting capability to create their daily Air Quality Index outlooks or to issue air quality alerts (ozone action day advisories, for example) more than 290 million people across the country are being provided with information that equips them with knowledge to make more informed decisions to protect their health.
To learn about how EPA evaluates the effectiveness of the nation's current and pending air quality regulations, see: "EPA Scientists Advance Clean Air Research by Seeing the Visible and the Invisible."