“Severe weather” to most means flooding, tornadoes, and hurricanes, but our atmosphere can also produce other hazards.  Tuesday, the setup across the northern great lakes has prompted an Air Quality Alert for portions of Southern Michigan and Northwest Indiana.

The Setup

How does the weather have an impact on air quality?  The answer is found in the features in place across the midwest, coupled with its location.  High pressure has settled in across the Great Lakes, behind a weak cold front.  Conditions at the surface have not changed much behind the front, but the real impact can be seen aloft, with drier air creating nearly cloudless skies across the region.

Cloudless skies and high pressure may sound promising, but in this case, it creates a dome of high pressure with little wind.  Combine that with the industrial activities that happen in the greater Chicago and Detroit areas, and the fumes become trapped around these regions.

 

“The calm winds will cause local stagnation as mobile and industrial fumes have nowhere to go. Under an intense July sun and humid conditions, elevated afternoon ozone concentrations are likely to occur, especially in the Detroit area.” -Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

Ozone maps provided by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, with the shaded regions showing the variation in air quality across the state.

What To Do

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has issued an Action Day for counties in far Southwest and Southeast Michigan, due to elevated ozone levels across the region.  Following that, the National Weather Service has issued an Air Quality Alert.

“People and businesses are urged to avoid activities which lead to
ozone formation. These activities include…refueling vehicles or
topping off when refueling, using gasoline powered lawn equipment
and using charcoal lighter fluid. Positive activities include…car
pooling, biking to work, delaying or combining errands and using
water based paints.”-US National Weather Service Detroit

Groups that are more vulnerable to ozone include young and elderly persons, individuals who have respiratory issues such as asthma  and those who spend much of the day outside.  For these groups, limiting outdoor activities and spending time in well ventilated areas can provide relief.

For further information on the air quality in your area, please visit the Michigan Department of
Environmental Quality Page

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About Kevin Thiel

Kevin is a Meteorology Major and Mathematics Minor at Ohio University, with an interest for thunderstorm electrification and research. On campus, he serves as President of the AMS Student Chapter, along with Webmaster and Forecaster for the campus atmospheric lab. This past summer, Kevin interned at the National Weather Service office in Miami, Florida, using lightning and radar data to study severe thunderstorm potential. One day, Kevin hopes to enter into field of academia and research, or become a forecaster with the Storm Prediction Center.
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