Why air quality suffers in the summer

(WTNH) — Here it goes again…another heat wave, and as a result more days with poor air quality. But what causes an air quality alert, and why does it typically only happen during the warm weather months? Well here’s why:

When you think summer, you likely think stagnant. Hot, humid, sticky, and hazy are the best words that come to mind. Thanks to high pressure, we get nice and sunny weather, but that poses a problem. In our atmosphere, air moves towards low pressure systems. That’s why during big storms, the wind moves towards the center of those storms. High pressure pushes air down, and pushes air away from where we are. Think of it as a lid on a big pot. That high pressure traps air at the ground, not allowing it to disperse and get away. That’s also why you see the smog so well in Los Angeles on certain days. Because of that, any pollutants at the ground are stuck at the ground. Compare it to standing right behind the exhaust of a bus…that would smell bad, and also potentially be dangerous.  So why does this happen most during the summer? Here’s where chemistry comes in.

The major form of pollution that cause air quality alerts is ozone. Ozone forms when ultraviolet radiation reacts with nitrogen dioxide. During any time of the year we have lots of nitrogen dioxide produced by cars, fossil fuels, and other pollutants. Unfortunately during the summer we have stronger sun, and more hours of sunshine to create these pollutants. Combine that with a hot and sticky day like today, and the result is poor air quality.  So how can you avoid having to suffer?

Well it’s actually really easy! The best advice is to stay indoors when you are sensitive to these types of days. Elderly, young, and asthmatic people are most likely to suffer. I have spoken with doctors in the past that have explained that often these respiratory sensitivities from underlying health conditions so make sure to get checked by a doctor if you do feel especially run down on days like today. Prevent yourself from feeling these conditions by slowing down! Don’t allow yourself to spend too much time outside running around, walk instead of run if you do go outside, and spend more time indoors with air conditioning.

You can do your part to reduce days like these by not running your lawn mower during the day, carpool to work, and try to limit your use of gas powered equipment! The air quality issues will likely happen yet again on Tuesday!


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