NOAA STRATEGIC GOAL: Weather & WaterServe society's needs for weather and water information.
NOAA's Air Quality Program
NOAA's Air Quality Program provides environmental policy-makers and resource managers both information on the key causes of air quality problems and tools to support the development of effective policies and emissions management programs. The Program also produces timely and accurate air quality (AQ) forecast guidance so people can take appropriate action to limit adverse effects of poor air quality. Using NOAA-provided information and tools, local, regional, and national air quality decision-makers can make effective policies and plans to protect public health, reducing illness and mortality while also helping to maintain a vital economy. And NOAA's air quality forecast guidance enables communities to more effectively limit adverse effects of poor air quality episodes. NOAA works with a number of partners, especially from academia and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Air Quality Program conducts a series of comprehensive regional air quality assessments that characterize the key causes of air quality problems in regions of the country that have serious AQ problems. The centerpiece of each assessment is an intensive field study that deploys state-of-the-art technologies to provide information about the atmospheric processes that form air pollution. Insights derived from the field study inform regional and national policy-makers and planners, enabling them to develop more effective management strategies. Scientists also use those insights to improve the models that produce AQ forecasts. Scientists from ESRL represent the core of research in this area, providing state-of-the-art measurements of the chemical and physical state of the atmosphere and using that data to determine the root causes of, and solutions for poor air quality.
The Air Quality Program is working towards nationwide forecast guidance for ozone and particulate matter. This guidance informs state and local AQ forecasters who provide next-day air quality alerts for participating communities - some 300 Nationwide for ozone, with approximately 100 of those including particulate matter as well. NOAA Air Quality forecasts provide detailed information to the public to help them avoid exposure to harmful air quality. Ozone forecasts are currently provided operationally for the eastern U.S. ESRL is heavily involved in developing, testing and evaluation of prototype air quality forecast models.
The Program also supports observing networks for the measurement of various atmospheric pollutants and compounds that impact air quality. As part of this effort, ESRL operates a network of ozonesonde stations, where balloons carrying ozone sensors are launched weekly to provide information about ozone levels aloft.