Just breathe: Ozone forecaster unveiled at University of Houston, available via Web

August 21, 2006

HOUSTON, Aug. 21, 2006 -- People with asthma or other respiratory problems can breathe a sigh of relief thanks to University of Houston professors who have recently unveiled a forecasting system that provides air quality data on ozone conditions.

With the intent to not only increase public awareness, but also help Texas manage air quality issues, the Institute for Multi-dimensional Air Quality Studies (IMAQS) at UH has been operating an air quality forecasting system for a year that has been tested, fine-tuned and now determined ready for public use. Over the course of this past year, the system has been expanded and improved to serve the entire eastern half of Texas, including the Houston and Dallas metropolitan areas.

"Our ozone forecaster is more localized than others and goes into further detail," said Daewon Byun, director of IMAQS and a professor in UH's geosciences department. "For instance, while the ozone conditions may be rated unhealthy in downtown Houston on a given day, suburbs like Sugar Land and The Woodlands may actually be experiencing a good day that still is safe for outdoor activities in those specific areas. Other days, the opposite is true with downtown-area ozone levels being lower than in certain suburbs."

By clicking on the local, regional or national maps at http://www.imaqs.uh.edu/ozone_forecast.htm, the public can obtain a map view of daily maximum ozone levels color-coded with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) health alert index. Also included are links to animations of a two-day forecast in one-hour increments. These maps and animations can help individuals, especially those with respiratory problems, plan their day's outside activities. The Web site is updated daily with the most recent 48-hour local, regional and national forecasts, providing graphical analysis of the onset, intensity, duration and area of poor air quality conditions via access to hourly data from 165 East Texas air pollution monitors. The near real-time hourly air pollution and meteorological data, air quality indices and animations from 3-D simulations performed by IMAQS use the EPA's Community Multiscale Air Quality modeling system co-developed by Byun in 1999 while at the EPA before coming to UH.

Byun stresses that while the traditional ozone season lasts from June through September, Houston suffers the consequences all year long. In a related project, UH's IMAQS is collaborating with Winifred Hamilton, director of the Baylor College of Medicine's Environmental Health Section, who is using Byun's air quality data in the patient-care arena and in her work to increase public awareness of the connection between health and the environment.

Accurate meteorological and photochemical modeling efforts are essential to support the efforts for establishing the State Implementation Plan by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), Byun said. Houston currently is in severe noncompliance, experiencing more than 30 days per year of high ozone conditions. The EPA's ozone standard allows just one day per year of such conditions, and the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria area must meet these existing standards by 2007 or risk losing highway funding, among other penalties.

"The air quality forecasting is made by the photochemical air quality models that take data on both manmade and biogenic emission values and meteorological inputs, coupled with descriptions of the physical and chemical processes that occur in the atmosphere," Byun said. "We then mathematically and numerically process the information to yield predictions of air pollutant concentrations as a function of time and location."

With funding from the EPA, TCEQ, Texas Environmental Research Consortium and Houston Advanced Research Center, Byun has collaborated with researchers at UH from the fields of geosciences, mathematics, computer science and chemistry on a number of projects to build this ozone forecasting system. The TCEQ also provides key emissions input and technical assistance for the project.

Past IMAQS initiatives leading up to the success and unveiling of this air quality tool include: "Improving Houston's air quality cannot begin without the level of detail that Byun and his colleagues have put into this research," said Jack Casey, chair of UH's geosciences department in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. "Developing the ozone forecasting system and its continuous verification and improvement with the help of regional chemical measurement programs is an important first step in understanding Houston's air quality problem. Because of the smaller local grid spacing, the Web site is better than any other state or national forecasting Web site for ozone alerts in this region. With the release of these forecasts on a daily basis, Byun and IMAQS are performing an important service for the Houston and southeastern Texas community."
-end-
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.

About the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
The UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, with nearly 400 faculty members and approximately 4,000 students, offers bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees in the natural sciences, computational sciences and mathematics. Faculty members in the departments of biology and biochemistry, chemistry, computer science, geosciences, mathematics and physics have internationally recognized collaborative research programs in association with UH interdisciplinary research centers, Texas Medical Center institutions and national laboratories.

For more information about UH, visit the university's Newsroom at www.uh.edu/newsroom.

To receive UH science news via e-mail, visit www.uh.edu/admin/media/sciencelist.html.

University of Houston

Related Air Quality Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19: Air quality influences the pandemic
An interdisciplinary team from the University of Geneva and the ETH Z├╝rich spin-off Meteodat investigated possible interactions between acutely elevated levels of fine particulate matter and the virulence of the coronavirus disease.

COVID-19 shutdown effect on air quality mixed
In April 2020, as remote work and social distancing policies were in place in Delaware and a number of other states, there was a sense the skies were clearer and less polluted with fewer people on the road.

School absences correlate to impaired air quality
In Salt Lake City schools, absences rise when the air quality worsens, and it's not just in times of high pollution or ''red'' air quality days--even days following lower levels of pollutions saw increased absences.

Unexpected wildfire emission impacts air quality worldwide
During wildfires, nitrous acid plays a leading role--spiking to levels significantly higher than scientists expected, driving increased ozone pollution and harming air quality, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder and the Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy.

Evergreen needles act as air quality monitors
Every tree, even an evergreen, can be an air quality monitor.

Research brief: New insight on the impacts of Earth's biosphere on air quality
A new study provides the first global satellite measurements of one of the most important chemicals affecting Earth's atmosphere.

Extending the coverage of PM2.5 monitoring to help improve air quality
A team of researchers in China has improved the method to obtain mass concentrations of particulate matter from widely measured humidity and visibility data.

Air quality impacts early brain development
Does living close to roadways pose a risk to the developing brain?

COVID-19 lockdowns significantly impacting global air quality
Levels of two major air pollutants have been drastically reduced since lockdowns began in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but a secondary pollutant -- ground-level ozone -- has increased in China, according to new research.

Can poor air quality make you gain weight?
A new study links air pollution to changes in the human gut microbiome which could fuel diabetes, obesity and inflammatory bowel diseases like colitis and Crohn's disease.

Read More: Air Quality News and Air Quality Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.