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Why do we have worsening air quality during summer months?

Phoenix air pollution
Posted at 7:27 AM, Jun 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-16 13:34:33-04

PHOENIX — Because of the extreme heat, June is one of the worst months for Arizona's air quality.

So what is all that haze you may be seeing across the Valley?

While some of it is pollution, Meteorologist with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Matt Pace says some of it may be from wildfires across the state. He says smoke was visible in Phoenix about a month ago when the Crooks Fire was actively burning. But most of that haze is dust, he says.

"We’ve had a lot of wind and it’s been very dry," Pace said. "Drought continues to increase, we haven’t seen rain in a few months so if we get any wind, you actually see it picked up."

What you can't see are the ozone levels. They're invisible. But Pace says they're highest during the summer because of the extreme heat.

“The topography of Phoenix is one of the main causes of why we see air quality issues that we do," Pace said. "We are surrounded by mountains, everything settles down into the Valley and if we don’t get the wind to push it out, you can’t clear out the Valley. So the dust, the smoke, the ozone will just build up over time and what we see in June is high pressure, hot temperatures, and light winds — a perfect recipe to have pollution levels increase in the Valley."

Health experts say if you are sensitive to high ozone levels, it could make your eyes itchy or your throat scratchy. It could also lead to heart or lung disease.

They recommend you limit your time outdoors during times when levels are high.

You can track current levels on ADEQ's app and they also have forecasts posted online daily.