Ozone season launches with new forecast method


RALEIGH - Along with the return of spring blooms and pollen, March 1 marks the beginning of the 2020 ozone season. From now through October 31, the daily air quality forecasts from the North Carolina Division of Air Quality (DAQ) will, for the first time, include forecasts for ozone for nearly all counties in the state. 

The county-based forecasting replaces the previous system of regional forecasting. The new forecast process gives users up-to-date and localized forecasting for 91 North Carolina counties and two Ridge Top zones, including the next day's forecast.

The new process will continue to monitor and forecast ozone and particulate matter, or PM2.5, via the air quality index (AQI), along with the corresponding AQI color codes to help North Carolinians plan their outdoor activities. Next-day and extended products are issued by 3 p.m. with a morning update by 10 a.m. The forecast is automatically saved every 15 minutes, and the public may also view the air quality forecast both on DAQ’s site and on the AirNow site.

DAQ also developed an Ozone Design Value Predictor Tool, a web-based mapping tool that displays maximum 8-hour ozone and Design Value information using current year ozone data for all ozone monitors in the U.S.  The tool provides an up-to-date snapshot of ozone monitor attainment status based on current year ozone data.

Ozone forms in the air when nitrogen oxides (NOx) react with hydrocarbons on warm, sunny days with little wind. While it was once North Carolina's most widespread air quality concern and contributor to breathing problems, ozone continues to decline due to steady reductions in emissions from its primary air pollution sources: power plants, industry and motor vehicles.


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