EPD climatologist explains air quality measurements
State environmental officials monitor air quality at 40 sites across the state through a program that’s been in place for 40 years.
The Georgia Environmental Protection Department’s ambient monitoring program tracks levels of more than 200 pollutants daily at stations from the northern region of the state to South Georgia.
DeAnna Oser, the EPD’s assistant branch chief, says while the numbers are accurate that can change quickly depending on weather-related events including wind and rain.
“Even though we do an air quality forecast every day at 1:30 [p.m.] and we put that out, the smog alert days you hear about, we can't — if the weather patterns change, that that will affect what we predict a pollutant concentrations to be," she said.
For example, rain can keep ozone and particulate matter levels down, which in turn can affect forecasts.
Oser says Georgia is currently meeting the Environmental Protection Agency’s national air quality standards.
Some of the air pollutants that state environmental departments must monitor include ozone, lead, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter.
Oser said it is easy for these pollutants to enter lungs. Two sizes of particulate matter are measured.
"One is 10 microns and one is 2.5 microns," she said. "So the 10 microns, you can think of about 10 of those. I think it is across the width of a human hair. PM 2.5 is like 30 of those across the width of a human hair. So we're talking the 2.5 is really small and gets down in the capillaries of your lungs."
Air quality forecasts from the EPD can be found here.