The state Division of Air Quality will include for the first time ozone forecasts in its daily air quality forecasts for nearly all counties from March 1 through Oct. 31, the 2020 ozone season, or when ozone is most likely to form.
Ozone forms in the air when nitrogen oxides, NOx, react with hydrocarbons on warm, sunny days with little wind, per DAQ.
A division of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, DAQ is now using county-based forecasting to replace the previous regional forecasting system. This will give users up-to-date and localized forecasting for 91 counties and two Ridge Top zones, including the next day’s forecast.
The next-day and extended forecasts 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.
The new process will continue to monitor and forecast ozone and particulate matter, or PM2.5, via the air quality index, or AQI, along with the corresponding AQI color codes to help North Carolinians plan their outdoor activities.
DAQ also developed an Ozone Design Value Predictor Tool, an online 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.
While Ozone was once the state’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, according to DAQ.