Why Smog and Haze are signs of Drought


All week long, I will be blogging about developing drought conditions across our region. But the forecast of drought versus flood in this case is far from clear-cut. Afterall, 500 miles to the west the farmlands of the Show Me state are saturated while our hay pastures are browning day by day.

So I will be building on my Memorial Day posting with new tidbits all week long. To get a total perspective, you will need to read all my postings this week.

Tonight, I focus on the stagnant air mass that has draped the region. For the most part, we have been bone dry now for 2 solid weeks. During that time, crop growth has been stunted. On Wednesday, I will tour the soy fields of Scioto County to get a first hand look at the dryness. Same is true all the way south to Charlotte, Atlanta and Bristol as NASCAR FANS KNOW! Case in point was the Coca-Cola 600 this past weekend where it was a hot, hazy and smoggy Memorial day.

Now when our region experiences a long dry spell, it is mainly because a large area of sinking air sits atop our fair cities. As air sinks, it warms and dries due to a process called compression. To understand this concept, all you need to do is rub your hands together. Faster, Faster! What do you feel? Warmth right?

Well, normally in late summer-early fall such a developing warm and stagnant weather pattern promotes the start of our dry season. Hence, the abnormally parched weather of May is 4 months early.

Of course, the August-September skies are among the haziest of the year. That’s because there is a lack of winds to mix the air and hence to blow pollutants away. Without any rain to cleanse the air, you have the makings of a very polluted atmosphere.

Where does the pollution come from? Well, you and I and industrial America are to blame. Emissions from gas powered cars and lawn movers pollute the air. Chances are strong you air conditioned not only your car but also your home this weekend. If you used a window unit air conditioner, you used electricity to run it. That electricity came from among other sources the burning of coal.

Living in the heart of Industrial America, we have more than our share of power plants that serve us with needed energy. Of course, the price to be paid by the production of energy is often pollution.

Fortunately our power producing companies are friendly to the environment. They do their best to limit the amount of pollution they produce. Still, a drive along the Kanawha River through what locals call the “chemical valley” is often a hazy one in summer. That haze is a by-product of morning fog and air pollution from you and me and our power plants.

For the rest of the week, the air in the Kanawha Valley will be a dirty yellow. So thick will the haze be (assuming we get no rain), that planes leaving Yeager airport will quickly disappear into a sea of orangey haze soon after departure.

Given the light winds and lack of rain expected the next 3 days, it is likely that our air will get hazier every day. Down the Ohio River, air pollution and smog warnings are in effect in Cincinnati for the next few days. The only reason our area is not included in this alert is relatively speaking we have far fewer cars to pollute the air. Still, my colleagues in Environmental Science at the EPA will take a close look at the amount of pollution in the air the next few days.

If you are among the elderly, have a heart condition or are an asthmatic, my suggestion is to curtail your strenuous outdoor activities until we get some rain. Better breathing days are ahead next week.

Of course, the same air that can take your breath away when it’s polluted can lead to a breathtaking “goodness gracious great balls of fire sunrises and sunsets”. So for the rest of the week, the sun will rise in a blaze of morning glory only to set in ball of fire thanks the thick summer haze and smog!

Memorial Day Posting: DROUGHT WATCH ON

Randy Yohe and I are just about to leave for the Ironton Memorial Day parade. Amy tells me it won’t rain, so the umbrellas we will be giving away will be to combat the heat! But the lack of rain and growing heat have me concerned about summer drought.

Back on May 10th, my blog (http://www.wsaz.com/tonysblog/headlines/7505202.html) first broached the drought subject. My prediction then, which I am tenuously standing by this Memorial Day, holds fast. I see us on the brink of drought all summer long, but with relieving thunderstorms saving the day on several occasions.

Still on This Memorial Day, I am issuing a Drought Watch. This may seem like a contradiction, but fact is it is not. On the contrary, I am in effect saying that a forecast for drought quenching thunderstorms is far from a sure thing. My favorite statement holds especially true.
"If I knew for sure I would be making millions on Wall Street”. Truly!

As for the statistics, basically one of the top 10 driest May’s is almost in the books. That all but assures we will have a blazing summer. That's because May dryness breeds Summer Heat. Again, my blog
of early May tells why.

Fortunately, we had a surplus of rain in March-April and the winter held its own with moisture. But if you have a field of Soybeans like my buddy Wayne Lewis in the Scioto Bottom lands of West Portsmouth or your cash crop is burley tobacco as it is in the Little Sandy Valley of Carter County for farmer Kenny Glass, you need rain to get those plants growing.

Sure seed germination has begun thanks to the minimal May moisture, but as John Marra has coached me over the years, "it takes one good downpour per week, an inch is perfect", to get a bumper crop. And we have been 2 weeks without that soaker.

Right now, Amy and Todd are talking scattered action at best this Memorial Day. That forecast then leads me to state, "the pressure is on that the next front due in this weekend had better come thru with some downpours or else". That will be the first test of the season for the "On the brink of drought all summer" forecast that I will stick with until proven wrong.

I will have tidbits for coping with the dryness all week long and look for me on the farm with a report this week.

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