NOAA 2004-052
Contact: Carmeyia Gillis

NOAA News Releases 2004
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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Environmental Protection Agency today released new experimental air quality forecast guidance that will provide critical, high resolution forecasts enabling state and local agencies to issue more accurate and geographically specific air quality warnings to the public. NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The Air Quality Forecast program will provide ozone forecast guidance with enough accuracy and advance notice for people to take action to prevent or limit harmful effects of poor air quality.

“Poor air quality is not only a danger to public health, but a major burden on the economy,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, director of the National Weather Service. “The cost of poor air quality to the U.S. from air pollution-related illnesses has been estimated at $150 billion per year. This partnership between NOAA and EPA is a major milestone in providing better warnings to the public.”

“State and local air quality agencies, as well as the private sector, make up the third arm in our triumvirate partnership to improve public health,” said Chet Wayland, manager of EPA’s AIRNOW program. “EPA, through our partnerships with state and local air quality agencies, collects air quality monitoring data and provides it to NOAA. These monitoring data, along with NOAA's new forecast guidance, are major ingredients used by state and local air quality forecasters who are responsible for issuing next-day air quality alerts. Our partners in the private sector help us to get these alerts to the public.”

Today, approximately 300 cities nationwide issue air quality alerts. The new AQF program will give more accurate forecasts of the onset, severity and duration of poor air quality. It will also provide for geographic differentiation of these forecasts across metropolitan and rural areas throughout the northeast U.S. For many communities, this will be the first time that air quality predictions will be available.

“The key to the AQF program is the partnership of NOAA and EPA scientists to improve air quality prediction, coupled with advanced computer modeling technology that enables NOAA’s National Weather Service to simulate atmospheric conditions using data provided by EPA," said Paula Davidson, NWS program manager for Air Quality Forecasting. "Twice daily, early in the morning and early afternoon, NOAA’s NWS supercomputers will process complex equations and atmospheric simulations to produce air quality forecasts."

The new AQF capability provides experimental hour-by-hour ozone forecasts through midnight of the following day, at 12 km mesh resolution – much more geographically specific than currently possible with metro area-wide alerts issued for participating communities. This information will be posted on NOAA and EPA data servers, available to the public and state and local air quality forecasters. NOAA will carry out several months of real-time testing and evaluation before adding this information to NWS’ operational products.

This ozone forecast represents the first step in an improved national AQF capability that will continue to grow over the next decade. Phase one provides hourly updated ozone forecast information throughout the northeastern United States. Coverage will expand to the entire nation within five years. Once ozone forecasts are available throughout the U.S., the capability will be extended to include particulate matter forecasts, then cover longer time periods (day two and beyond) and eventually, additional pollutants.

NOAA's National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. The National Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

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