PHOENIX - We are currently in a strong La Nina weather pattern that exists near the equator.
La Nina just means that the average surface water at the equator is a few degrees below its average. This is the direct opposite from the El Nino weather pattern which is warmer water than average.
Ken Waters from the National Weather Service in Phoenix explains what we can expect with this current La Nina weather pattern.
"A higher chance of stagnant weather conditions exist with La Nina because we don't get the rains or vigorous cold fronts moving through. This might have an impact on air quality because the air never mixes out," he said.
The cold morning forces a lot of people to heat their homes with wood-burning fireplaces. Stagnant weather leaves the cold air at the surface and warm air aloft so all the bad air from burning wood sits near the Valley floor for us to breathe.
This is called an inversion layer, as the cold air at the surface remains at the surface. Warmer air above the cold air creates little or no wind so all the pollution stays at the surface.
"You can look out at any vantage point in the Valley and see that haze hanging around our Valley skyline and we contribute that to wood burning and some vehicles as well," says Holly Ward from the Maricopa County Air Quality Department .
The EPA is looking at lowering the standards for PM10 and PM2.5 pollution levels across the nation. PM2.5 is chemical in nature and much smaller than PM10. PM10 tends to be geological material or just plain dust. PM2.5 which is smaller gets deeper into your lungs, affecting not only your health but also your pocket book. If the Valley doesn't meet these new EPA standards, the federal government will take action by cutting off all funding for roadway and street construction. Long term exposure to PM2.5 can increase the risk of children having lower respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. It also depresses the immune system and damages the cells surrounding the lungs that helps keep the respiratory system clean and healthy.
It's vital that we all do our part when a no burn day is announced. We should also start making changes to ways that you heat your house now. A gas powered fire place or fire pit are wonderful solutions to our pollution problem when it comes to PM2.5.
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