2023 ozone season begins today

Press release from NC Department of Environmental Quality:

March 1 marks the beginning of the 2023 ozone season as state and local environmental agencies renew their daily air quality forecasts for ozone across North Carolina.

From now through Oct. 31, the daily air quality forecasts from the North Carolina Division of Air Quality (DAQ) will include ozone in addition to the forecasts for fine particle matter (PM2.5) pollution, which are offered year-round.

Ground-level ozone forms in the air when nitrogen oxides (NOx) react with hydrocarbons in the presence of heat and sunlight. High levels of ozone have been linked to heart and lung conditions, including asthma, particularly in young children, older adults and other sensitive groups.

Ozone levels on North Carolina’s highest ozone days continue to decline due to steady reductions in emissions from its primary air pollution sources: power plants, industry and motor vehicles. In 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated North Carolina as attaining the 2015 ozone standard statewide. Since then, North Carolina has maintained compliance with the standard.

The DAQ air quality forecast gives users up-to-date localized forecasting for 91 North Carolina counties and two Ridge Top zones, including the next day’s forecast. Our colleagues at the Forsyth County Office of Environmental Assistance and Protection forecast the air quality for the greater Triad region, including the cities of Winston-Salem and Greensboro.

Our meteorologists will monitor and forecast ozone and PM2.5 using 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 air quality forecasts for all of North Carolina are available through the Air Quality Portal, a mobile-friendly website launched last year in partnership with the North Carolina State Climate Office. Forecasts are also available through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow website and app. Our Twitter feed and Facebook account provide forecast updates, information about active air quality alerts and opportunities to learn more about air quality issues.

In addition to forecasts, the Air Quality Portal offers the Ambient Information Reporter (AIR) tool. The tool 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.

Another resource developed by DAQ is 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 U.S. The tool provides an up-to-date snapshot of ozone monitor attainment status based on current-year ozone data.

Additional resources in Spanish are available from AirNow.

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