Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Season for Haze -- and Pollution Warm Weather Brings Hazards

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Season for Haze -- and Pollution Warm Weather Brings Hazards

Article excerpt

Now that temperatures are rising and days are getting longer,

Northeast Floridians and Southeast Georgians can look forward to

a fixture of summer -- hazy skies.

While the haze generally is great for spectacular sunsets, it

also is a sign of higher levels of pollutants in the air and

trouble for people with lung ailments. Even people who exercise

outdoors need to be wary, health officials say.

The haze actually is a mixture of pollutants, mainly tiny

particles and ozone, that can enter a person's lungs and cause

respiratory ailments and, in cases when carcinogens are

involved, possibly cancer, health officials say.

According to officials with the Jacksonville Regulatory and

Environmental Services Department, this is the time of year when

pollution levels begin to rise.

"In the summer, it has a lot to do with the amount of sunlight

we get," said Kevin Ray, engineering technician for the city

environmental services department. "We have longer days and

higher temperatures. It's not that the hazy days will create the

ozone levels; the ozone will create the hazy days."

Ray, who monitors pollutant levels in Jacksonville, said ozone

is the city's major threat. Ozone is created by motor vehicle

and smokestack emissions. But he said the city also has a large

amount of particulate matter such as dust, dirt and pollen.

Steve Letro, the meteorologist in charge of the National

Weather Service branch in Jacksonville, said there is a good

reason for the haze during warmer months.

"What basically is going on is that during the fall and winter

and early spring, the atmosphere has a natural cleansing

mechanism called cold fronts," Letro said. "Whenever one comes

through, it acts just like a virtual broom that sweeps the

atmosphere clean."

But as summer approaches, the cold fronts wind down and high

pressure areas often sit over the Southeastern United States, he

said.

"Generally, within a high pressure area the air sinks, so over

an extended period of time, if we're in a dry pattern, which is

normal when you have these high pressure systems camp over us,

pollutants in the atmosphere tend to settle out in the lowest

layers and become more concentrated," Letro said.

Thus, the haze.

When the high pressure stays above us, that also results in

warmer temperatures because the air sinks and compresses, which

causes it to become warmer, he said. An extended period of high

pressure leads to what people call a heat wave.

However, Letro said a normal weather pattern for the summer

months is for the high pressure area to be offshore, causing

enough instability in the atmosphere for rain and thunderstorms.

Letro said summer will bring its own weather to help clear the

air, if only for a day or two. …

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