Q&A of the Day – Fireworks, Saharan dust & South Florida’s air quality
Each day I’ll feature a listener question that’s been submitted by one of these methods.
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Today’s entry: Brian, hope you had a happy 4th& looking forward to you coming back. I came across something today I’d never seen and wondered if you might know the reason why. I’ve been using the weather app on my iPhone for years and I’ve never seen an “Unhealthy Air Quality” warning until today. Is this a new feature that maybe I’ve missed and the air quality is worse (in South Florida) than I’d realized? Is this the Saharan dust storm? I’ve looked around and can’t find any news on this.
Bottom Line: The Saharan dust hasn’t helped our air quality over the past couple of weeks, however what we experienced Saturday into Sunday appears to have been overwhelmingly related to fireworks and the thousands of private Independence Day celebrations taking place across South Florida. Specific to the Weather App on your iPhone, the air quality index feature has been available for over two years. If you scroll all of the way down, you’ll notice it’s at the bottom of the forecast information. You’ll only see advisory information show up at the top of the app if air quality is poor enough that an advisory is triggered.
The Air Quality Index is a numerical monitoring of Air Quality which ranges from 0 to 500. 0 is perfect air quality, 500 means you’re pretty much screwed if you try to breathe the air. The likely reason you haven’t seen an advisory until this weekend, is due to South Florida generally having really good air quality. On the scale, 50 and below is considered “good” air quality. Florida’s average number is a 35. In South Florida the average is around 20-25 based upon how congested the area is where you live or work. Despite South Florida being the most heavily congested area of the state, we benefit from our active weather patterns and consistent winds which bring us fresh ocean air and generally sweep away pollutants quickly. The combination of record home fireworks displays due to the cancellation of public displays, along with a still morning, (winds were zero-2 mph Sunday morning) led to “Unhealthy Air Quality” throughout South Florida. As of 9 am Sunday morning, the average AQI in the TriCounty was a 195 – which is the highest I’ve seen as well. It did steadily improve throughout the day with the absence of firework displays combined with normal afternoon thunderstorms popping up.
It’s a bit of an eye opener about the ecological impact of fireworks, even if just for a short time. They literally created an environment which wasn’t healthy for any South Floridian to breathe in and that’d certainly be true of animals and outdoor pets as well.