NOAA 2004-087
Contact: Greg Romano

NOAA News Releases 2004
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NOAA’s National Weather Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Northeastern U.S. Air Quality Forecast capability is fully operational. The program provides ozone forecasts for the region to help people take action to prevent or limit harmful effects of poor air quality. NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The new capability was developed jointly by NOAA and the EPA, with critical funding support in Congress provided by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), and has undergone rigorous real-time testing and evaluation over the past two summers. This improves the basis for air quality alerts and the information available to people at risk from poor air quality by providing more accurate forecasts of the start, severity and duration of poor air quality. It also shows the variation of predicted air quality across metropolitan and rural areas throughout the northeast U.S. where air quality is often different from the large city centers. For many communities, this is the first time that air quality predictions are available.

The EPA, through partnerships with state and local air quality agencies, collects air quality monitoring and source emissions inventory data, and provides these data to the National Weather Service. These data, along with NWS weather observations and prediction models, and the air quality model developed by NOAA researchers at EPA, enable NWS to represent complex interactions in the atmosphere needed for accurate and detailed air quality prediction.

Twice daily, NWS supercomputers at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction in Camp Springs, Md., run linked weather and air quality forecast models to produce the air quality forecast guidance. This guidance, available on both NWS and EPA servers, is then used by state and local air quality forecasters to provide Air Quality Index forecasts to the public.

“The benefits of these forecasts to the public are extraordinary,” said Paula Davidson, NOAA National Weather Service program manager for Air Quality Forecasting. “On the guidance maps, users can see colored intensity levels of ozone predicted for the area at hourly intervals through the day. People can plan their activities based on this information. It's an excellent tool for state and local air quality forecasters, ozone sensitive users and private sector partners who help distribute air quality alerts to the public.”

"NOAA and its partner agencies have a long history of using scientific research to solve real-world problems," said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "The implementation of this new air quality ozone forecast into operations is a prime example of NOAA's commitment to research that helps save lives. We look forward to the day when the capability is available to all Americans. I would particularly like to thank Senator Judd Gregg for his strong and longstanding support of this program. Because of his efforts in Congress to secure funding for NOAA air quality ozone forecasting, this program is now a reality and as a result, people in the Northeastern United States will be better informed about the air they breathe.”

The new capability provides forecasted hour-by-hour ozone levels through midnight of the following day at 12 km horizontal grid resolution - an area about the size of New York’s Central Park. This information is posted and updated twice daily on NWS and EPA data servers, available to the public and state and local air quality forecasters.

“The air quality ozone forecast capability offers a quantum leap improvement in ozone forecasting over previous Air Quality Index models,” said Gary Foley, director of EPA’s National Exposure Research Lab. “Whereas existing models are generally empirical in nature and applied to limited areas, this forecast system is built upon detailed science models of the dynamics and chemistry of the atmosphere.”

“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 NOAA’s 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. The partnership between NOAA and EPA is a major milestone in providing better warnings to the public.”

The air quality ozone forecast represents the first step in an improved national air quality forecast capability that will continue to grow over the next decade. Phase one provides the 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 particle pollution 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, forecast and warnings for the United States and its territories. NOAA’s 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.

EPA collects, manages and distributes ambient air quality monitoring and source emissions data from the states, and provides analyses and assessment models and tools for the best use of these data in the nation’s air quality management.

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