VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) - The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) has issued an Ozone Action Day or an Air Quality Alert for Vigo County. What exactly does this mean for Terre Haute?
IDEM issues these alerts based on the air quality forecast, air quality standards, as well as the Air Quality Index categories. A major component to the alert is the weather. When we have very warm temperatures along with light wind, clear skies, and temperature inversions, expect an Ozone Action Day.
Temperature inversions (warm air trapped below cooler air in the atmosphere) keep the pollutants such as ozone and other particulate matter near the surface of the earth. Couple that with hot and calm conditions, pollutants tend to stay in one place.
Air Quality Alerts are typically issued for counties that have large cities with high travel areas. Vehicles are the number one cause of ozone in Indiana. Ozone along with fine particles like dust and smoke can be very dangerous for those who have respiratory issues. Young children, the elderly, and those with asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, or any other lung disease should use caution when outdoors.
The Urban Heat Island effect is another major part why only large cities get impacted by air quality. Large cities tend to be much warmer than surrounding rural areas. This occurs because vegetation is more widespread across rural areas than urban areas. Vegetation essentially releases water into the atmosphere. When water evaporates, it cools down the surrounding air.
Urban areas have more asphalt, streets, and buildings. These structures absorb the sunlight and will warm the surrounding areas. A simple explanation of this can be the difference of wearing a black t-shirt and a white t-shirt on a sunny day. The dark shirt will be much warmer since it absorbs most of the light energy from the sun.
There are several ways to help protect yourself and others during Air Quality Alert days:
- Carpool, bike, and use public transportation
- Do not idle your car for more than 30 seconds
- Take multiple breaks if you have to be outside and especially if you have underlying health conditions
- Avoid burning anything outside
- Use a burning gas instead of wood to reduce smoke particulate matter being released in the atmosphere
- Wait to fill up with gas until after sunset
- Mow the lawn until late in the afternoon and evening
- Avoid using gas powered equipment until late in the afternoon and evening