This year’s ozone season starts Tuesday, when the North Carolina Division of Air Quality begins adding ozone information to its daily air quality forecast of fine particle matter, or PM2.5, pollution.
Ozone forms in the air when nitrogen oxides, or NOx, react with hydrocarbons on warm, sunny days with little wind.
The air quality forecast gives users up-to-date localized information for 91 counties and two ridge top zones, including the next day’s forecast.
In partnership with the North Carolina State Climate Office, the division developed in 2021 the Ambient Information Reporter (AIR) tool. This is a mobile-friendly website that provides real-time and historical air quality and meteorological observations, including data on satellite-detected fires and smoke. It also includes the latest air quality forecast with charts and graphs of hourly and daily data trends.
The division also developed the Ozone Design Value Predictor tool, an online mapping tool that displays current year and long-term trends in measured ozone data for all ozone monitors in the country. The tool provides an up-to-date snapshot of ozone monitor attainment status based on current-year ozone data.
Ozone was once the state’s most widespread air quality concern and contributor to breathing problems. In recent years, ozone continues to decline because of steady reductions in emissions from its primary air pollution sources: power plants, industry and motor vehicles, according to the division. The Environmental Protection Agency designated North Carolina in 2017 as attaining the 2015 ozone standard statewide. Since then, the state has maintained compliance with the standard.