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August 21, 2011

Please clean up after your dog

Walking the dogFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Eating breakfast? Wait an hour before reading further. Colorado State University scientists studying the microbes that blow around in urban environments found a surprisingly diverse collection of bacteria in the air. But the dominant species of bacteria in the wintertime breezes in Detroit and Cleveland come from dog fecal matter. “We breathe in bacteria every minute we are outside, and some of these bugs may have potential health implications,” said CSU biologist Noah Fierer.  

(SUN PHOTO: Nick Madigan, 2010)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Air quality, From the Sun's print edition
        

August 11, 2011

Metro Baltimore near worst on bad air days

On a list of 252 locations in 40 states, ranked nationally by the number of Code Orange Air Quality days so far this year, the Baltimore Metropolitan area comes in with a dismal rank of 17. Only Atlanta, Ga. and 15 places in California did worse. Code Orange means that air pollution levels are considered dangerous for children and other sensitive groups.

The list, compiled by the Natural Resources Defense Council from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data, has East San Bernardino, Calif., as the worst, with 54 Code Orange days between Jan. 1 and Aug. 8 this year.

Atlanta has tallied 28 Code Orange days so far, placing the city in 12th place. Metro Baltimore posted 24 Code Orange days, earning a rank of 17. Houston-Galveston, Texas, with all their petroleum emissions, did a little better, finishing 18th, with 22 Code Orange days. Metro Washington had 20 Code Orange days, and ranked 24th.

Maryland's Eastern Shore ranked 43, with 14 Code Orange days. Western Maryland finished in 142nd place, with 4 Code Orange days.

The best showing on the list was from Woodland, Calif. Woodland actually tied with 52 other locations reporting just one Code Orange day. But it comes last on the list because its name falls at the end of the alphabet.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:47 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air quality
        

June 18, 2010

Heat, humidity AND bad air

We already know it's going to be hot as blazes and humid this weekend. Now the Maryland Department of the Environment has issued a "Code Orange" Air Quality Alert for the Baltimore metro area on Saturday.

Air Quality Alert in gray"A CODE ORANGE AIR QUALITY ALERT MEANS THAT AIR POLLUTION
CONCENTRATIONS WITHIN THE REGION MAY BECOME UNHEALTHY FOR
SENSITIVE GROUPS. SENSITIVE GROUPS INCLUDE CHILDREN...PEOPLE SUFFERING FROM
ASTHMA... HEART DISEASE OR OTHER LUNG DISEASES...AND THE ELDERLY.
THE EFFECTS OF AIR POLLUTION CAN BE MINIMIZED BY AVOIDING
STRENUOUS ACTIVITY OR EXERCISE OUTDOORS.

"FOR MORE INFORMATION ON GROUND-LEVEL OZONE AND FINE
PARTICLES...VISIT WWW.AIRNOW.GOV"

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments has done the same for the capital and its suburbs, including all of Southern Maryland. Similar alerts are posted through Delaware, eastern Pennsylvania, northern New Jersey and New York City and its suburbs.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:30 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air quality
        

June 4, 2010

Code Orange air quality alert ... again

NOAA/NWSThe Maryland Department of the Environment has issued another Code Orange air quality alert for Central Maryland (gray area on the map), in effect until 9 p.m. Friday.

The alert means that air pollution concentrations will climb to levels considered unhealthy for sensitive groups. Those groups include children, the elderly and those with asthma, heart and lung diseases. People in those categories can minimize the effects of the pollution by avoiding strenuous activity and outdoor exercise.

This is the second day this week the state has declared a Code Orange air quality alert. 

You can track air quality changes, and see air quality forcasts for this area and the nation here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:59 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Air quality
        

June 2, 2010

Try not to breathe today

Air quality mapPlenty of heat and sunshine today, coupled with millions of internal combustion engines, will generate some pretty nasty pollution in the air we're breathing. Code Orange air quality alerts have been issued for the entire region - from Northern Virginia to Cecil County, Md., and from the Chesapeake west to Frederick County - until 9 p.m. Wednesday.

The Maryland Department of the Environment said the Code Orange alert means the air pollution levels will be unhealthy for sensitive groups. Those groups include children, people suffering from asthma, heart disease or lung diseases, and the elderly.

"The effects of air pollution can be minimized by avoiding strenuous activity or exercise outdoors," the alert states. You can track the deterioration in our air quality this afternoon by clicking here.

Conditions are even worse in parts of Maine, where smoke from forest fires in Quebec have degraded air quality to Code Red Alert levels.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:15 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air quality
        

November 9, 2009

Unhealthy air quality in Baltimore

Air Now  

The Maryland Department of the Environment is forecasting unhealthy air quality for "sensitive groups" in Baltimore again on Tuesday, for the second day in a row. Sensitive groups include children and people with heart and respiratory ailments. They should limit their time outdoors. Healthy adults are unlikely to be affected.

Until this week there had been only four "Code Orange" days this year when particulate readings have reached unhealthy levels in the Baltimore region, with none since March, according to the MDE. (That's the Key Bridge through this morning's haze, above.)

High pressure over the region, combined with stagnant air, may be contributing to the unhealthy levels of particulates (soot), weather forecasters said. Air quality in Baltimore also reached unhealthy levels for particulate matter on Monday. Cecil County, too, is under an air quality alert from 1 a.m. Tuesday until 1 a.m. Wednesday. 

Here's more from the Clean Air Partners Website:

"Unlike ground level ozone, particles are not a seasonal pollutant; high levels can occur any time of the year. Unhealthy levels of particle pollution in the air can cause or trigger significant health problems. These range from coughing and difficult or painful breathing to the possibility of an emergency room visit or even premature death. Exposure to particles can decrease lung function, weaken the heart, and possibly bring on a heart attack. The environment also suffers from particle pollution. Particles are the major source of haze, and can harm the environment by changing the nutrient and chemical balance in soil and water."

Better days are coming soon.

"It shouldn't be long-lived," said National Weather Service forecaster Andy Woodcock said of the air pollution. After Tuesday, "the wind will go to the north northeast and stay there for a while." And that should clear the air.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:15 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air quality
        

April 27, 2009

Allergies acting up? Blame a tree

You can see it, plain as day, on your car. That greenish-yellow powder is pollen, mostly from trees at this time of year. And I'd guess mostly oaks.

Pollen counts are high. And if you suffer from spring allergies, you probably didn't need to beSun Photo/Amy Davis told. The outdoors is all in bloom, and the trees, especially, are performing their version of courtship and mating, sending out clouds of male pollen in search of female flower parts. And until they get the job done, or we get a good soaking rain, we'll be dealing with tree pollen allergies.

If you'd like to check the daily pollen counts, here are a couple of Web sites that may help. Pick your fave and check it daily.

The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology.

The Weather Channel.

WeatherBug.

 

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:01 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air quality
        

August 7, 2008

Chinese air pollution: Getting better?

AP PhotoThe pictures and videos from the Beijing Olympic village are appalling. The thick smog and frighteningly short visibilities can only hint at what it must be like to breathe that air - much less compete in it at world-class levels. Four American athletes arriving at the airport with air-filters over their mouths and noses took a lot of heat for the perceived insult to their host country. But it probably wasn't a bad idea.

The Weather Channel website has an interesting page on Olympic weather and air conditions.

With the coal-burning Chinese economy on an astonishing roll, and their huge, urbanizing population eager to adopt a U.S.-style motorized existence, it would seem like there is little or nothing we could expect but continuing degradation of the Chinese environment.

And it's not bad for the Chinese alone. That air pollution degrades the air for the entire entire planet. Much of it can actually be traced as it drifts across the Pacific and into U.S. airspace.

That said, I've run across an essay today that seems to suggest that the situation in China has actually gotten better in recent years. And they write of a dynamic in national economies that seems to bring about environmental improvements as a country's collective wealth grows. Something called the Kuznets Curve.

Wouldn't that be nice?  Have a look.  It's a long read, but fascinating. Does this make sense to you?

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:58 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air quality
        

June 16, 2008

Smoke from NC, VA fires reached MD

As I left work Friday evening I could detect a smoky aroma in the air. And looking out from The Sun's garage on Calvert Street, I noted a pretty thick haze. Maybe you got a whiff of it too, on Friday or Saturday.

Turns out, as forecast earlier in the week, we were downwind of several stubborn wildfires in eastern North Carolina and in the Great Dismal Swamp in southeastern Virginia. Those fires have been burning for quite a while now, and on Friday the winds finally shifted and began carrying the smoke up from the south. It eventually got all the way to New Hampshire before more wind shifts began to sweep it out over the ocean.

This sort of thing happens from time to time. Anybody else recall a weekend in 2002 when forest fires in Quebec began sending smoke wafting our way. It smelled like smokehouse in Baltimore, and the skies were noticeably beige as a result. 

And lots more probably remember the smokey stump dump fire in Clarksville 10 years ago this month, and another in Baltimore County that began in 1992, sent smoke drifting across the city, burned for 18 months and cost $3 million to control.  

Anyway, here's how the NC and VA fires looked Saturday, from NASA's orbiting Aqua Earth Observing satellite. They're still burning. I suspect vacationers on the Outer Banks are pretty sick of the smell. Anybody reading this on the OBX?

NASA/Aqua

 

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:48 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Air quality
        

March 17, 2008

Big Asian export to U.S.: air pollution

Measurements of air pollutants over the North Pacific have documented one of Asia's biggest exports - air pollution. A NASA study has concluded that some 40 billion pounds of aerosols - smoke, ash, and acid droplets from forest fires, coal stoves, automotive and industrial exhaust  - drifted out across the Pacific between 2002 and 2005. About 10 billion pounds of that reached North America.

That incoming pollution is about 15 percent the volume of the pollution we generate ourselves. The study's lead author, Hongbin Yu, of the University of Maryland Baltimore County, said, “This is a significant percentage at a time when the U.S. is trying to decrease pollution emissions to boost overall air quality. This means that any reduction in our emissions may be offset by the pollution aerosols coming from East Asia and other regions.” Yu is an assistant research scientist at UMBC, currently working at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt.

Satellites have tracked the pollution during its journey from East Asia and Russia, and provided scientists with data for their estimates of the volume and contents of the brown clouds. Rapid industrial growth in China has made matters worse, the study found.

Here's how it looked to the satellite's instruments on one day in 2003. You can read all about it here.

NASA

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:14 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air quality
        
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This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff
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