MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - By June 2011, the Mid-South had seen five Code Orange Alerts for ozone. This year, we have already had seven. What could be the reason? High heat, low humidity and light winds are a good combination to promote ozone development. Light winds allow pollution from car emissions and industries to build up at ground level and pose real health dangers to people sensitive to bad air.
Michael Goldstein, Air Pollution Meteorologist, says, “The numbers at one sight are high enough that if they were there for 8 hours, they would be at a code red.”
High ozone can make it hard to breathe for the elderly, young children, and those with respiratory problems such as asthma and emphysema. Also, people who work outdoors for at least 8 hours a day are also at risk of suffering from air quality related symptoms.
Code Orange alerts are likely for the rest of the week in the Mid-South, but ozone levels could go down next weekend. Forecasters expect humidity to return to the area by Friday.
“Ozone latches onto water vapor,” says Goldstein. “You want humidity if you want lower ozone.”
Unfortunately, that is not a good trade off for Mid-Southerners. More humidity will lead to a higher heat index. Heat advisories are issued when the heat index climbs to between 105 and 110 degrees. A heat index above 110 degrees will lead to an excessive heat warning being issued. Heat advisories are possible for the Mid-South this weekend as the heat index is expected to hit 105 degrees.