NOAA 2006-053
Contact: Chris Vaccaro
NOAA News Releases 2006
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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are reminding people across the country about the health impact of air quality in their communities as part of national Air Quality Awareness Week, May 15-19, 2006. Both agencies are urging Americans to check air quality forecasts to protect their health.

“From coast to coast, Americans are breathing easier under the leadership of President Bush,” said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. “By cutting powerplant emissions of mercury, soot, and smog, and equipping families with state-of-the-art air quality tools, EPA is delivering cleaner lungs and healthier lives. Building on three decades of air progress, EPA is working to bring our nation better health and a brighter future through the passage of the President’s Clear Skies initiative.”

"Daily weather conditions, such as hot temperatures, sunshine, and stagnant air, can be among the factors supporting dangerous air quality," said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "NOAA is proud to partner with the EPA and local air quality forecasters in providing Americans with the air quality forecast information necessary to make important health decisions."

Daily air quality forecasts are issued by state and local governments in terms of EPA’s Air Quality Index, a simple, color-coded scale that describes a community’s air quality and what steps people should take steps to reduce their exposure to pollution. AQI forecasts are available for ozone, which occurs primarily in summertime, and for particle pollution, which can occur year-round.

To bring this important information to the public, air quality forecasters use a combination of weather and air quality forecast information, current ozone or particle concentrations, and local knowledge of air pollution sources. Across the eastern half of the United States, NOAA’s air quality forecast capability is improving forecasters’ ability to predict the onset, severity, and duration of ozone pollution. NOAA’s forecast guidance covers cities and rural areas alike, with hour-by-hour predictions to help people take steps to limit their exposure to poor air quality. This tool uses the National Weather Service’s most advanced operational computer weather models coupled with a chemical transport model. This coming summer, NOAA plans to expand its air quality forecast guidance, on an experimental basis, to include the western half of the contiguous United States.

When air pollution reaches the “code orange” index level, certain sensitive groups of people, including those with asthma and the elderly, are more likely to be affected by pollution and should take steps to reduce their exposure. Reducing exposure can be as simple as lowering the intensity of exercise or other activities such as yard work, or rescheduling the activity for a time when air quality is expected to be better.

Since 1970, EPA has been working for a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people. As part of this work, EPA sets national air quality standards for ozone, particle pollution and other common air pollutants. The agency established the AQI in 1999 to inform the public about local air quality levels. EPA works with state, local, and federal partners to deliver daily AQI forecasts for more than 300 cities.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, 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 the nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

On the Web:

NOAA/EPA national Air Quality Awareness Week:


NOAA Air Quality Guidance:


Air quality forecasts: