Planning to head out for a jog today? Better skip it. Air pollution levels in the Baltimore region Monday are forecast to reach levels considered unhealthy for everyone, not just vulnerable groups such as children, ther elderly and the sick.
The Maryland Department of the Environment has issued a CODE RED Air Pollution Alert for Carroll, Baltimore, Harford, Howard, Cecil and Anne Arundel Counties, as well as Baltimore City. All residents are urged to avoid strenuous activity or exercise outdoors today.
In addition, Clean Air Partners, a consortium of regional governments, private sector and advocacy groups, advises Marylanders to turn off lights and electronics when not in use to reduce electric power demand that contributes to air pollution from power plants; avoid lawn mowing; telecommute or use public transit; avoid using chemicals in your lawn or garden.
UPDATE, 1:50 p.m.: This is the first Code Red prediction from the MDE this year, although pollution levels have reached Code Red threshholds on five previous dates (June 8-10, and July 2 and 5). That's fewer Code Orange-or-worse days than last year at this time, but MDE spokesman Randy Mosier said "this yerar's been a little more intense," with more Code Red violations than last year.
Aircraft flown by the University of Maryland over the weekend detected high ozone levels aloft over Virginia. "With a south southwest flow of air, they know that stuff's coming our way," Mosier said.
Today's Code Red forecast was also spurred by a prediction that the development of a bay breeze today would bring a wall of wind up from the southeast, trapping pollutants along the I-95 corridor, in Harford County in particular. Unless a thunderstorm develops, or cloud cover thickens, "I don't think there's much indication we won't hit those [Code Red] levels," Mosier said.
Earlier post resumes:
A Code Orange Pollution Alert has been posted for Frederick, Montgomery, Prince George's, Charles, St. Mary's and Calvert counties. On the Eastern Shore, the Code Orange alert is extended to Kent. Queen Anne's, Talbot, Caroline, Dorchester, Worcester Wicomico, Somerset and the Maryland beaches.
A Code Orange Alert means the air is unhealthy for vulnerable populations, such as children, the elderly and those with cardiovascular illnesses.
The National Weather Service is predicting high temperatures around 94 degrees Monday at BWI-Marshall Airport. The high could reach 95 degrees in downtown Baltimore. And these forecasts frequently prove to be too low on hot summer days in Baltimore.
In response to the hot-weather forecast, the Baltimore City Health Department has issued a Code Red Heat Alert, opening cooling shelters across the city and sending outreach workers into the community to check on vulnerable residents.
The city has recorded two heat-related deaths so far this season. "Poor air quality combined with high heat and humidity can lead to respiratory distress. It is vitally important that all residents, but especially the elderly, stay cool, drink plenty of clear liquids, avoid alcohol and take it slow if you need to be outside," said Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. For more information: www.baltimorehealth.org/coderedinfo
Tuesday is expected to be even hotter, with highs forecast to reach 97 degrees at BWI and downtown. But the forecast discussion from Sterling this morning says the forecast models are in broad disagreement about that. So there's some chance we could see triple digit temperatures Tuesday afternoon at BWI.
The record high temperature for Baltimore on a July 12 is 97 degrees, set in 1908. It's relatively low-hanging fruit - the coolest Baltimore record high for any date in July.
At the very least, we run the risk of triple-digit heat index readings as dew points near 70 degrees drive up the humidity side of the equation. That could get us into Heat Index numbers of 105 degrees or more.
Relief (map above) comes in the form of a cold front due to cross the region Tuesday night. That would drop the humidity level as drier air moves in from the northwest. Temperatures would drop a bit, into the mid-to-upper 80s for the balance of the week.