KSN Storm Track 3 Digital Extra: Why air quality drops during the summer

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While wildfires, smoky skies, and reduced air quality have recently made headlines, sensitive folks still need to be mindful of poor air quality even without wildfire smoke. During the summertime, a ridge of high pressure is typically the culprit of heat waves. This is what keeps us dry, hot, and sunny. This has also been a familiar setup for our region over the last few weeks.

High pressure inhibits motion in the atmosphere which means that winds are usually stagnant. This allows pollutants to build up to unhealthy levels with most of these pollutants coming from vehicles. The pollutants react with or are activated by sunlight to form ozone. Hot temperatures speed up the process. Ozone can cause coughing, breathing difficulties, and even lung damage.

Our current air quality has been between good and moderate. In addition to ozone, there are particles that are normally found in the atmosphere but can aggravate respiratory issues like asthma if able to build up to unhealthy levels. Some of these particles are dust, dirt, and smoke.

It is important to monitor our air quality regularly. On days when it is at an unhealthy level, there are some things you can do to keep yourself and your family safe. If possible, reschedule outdoor activities to the morning or move them inside. If you have to be outside then make it for a shorter period of time and try to take more breaks inside away from the elements.

You can also look ahead to days that will be more unsettled. Air quality will be better on these days. Low-pressure systems are typically associated with stronger winds and wet weather. Both of these conditions help disperse and wash pollutants out of the atmosphere.

-Meteorologist Ronelle Williams

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