The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is now generating high-resolution, experimental, 48-hour forecasts of air pollutants across the contiguous USA. The predictions, which are freely available online, can help decision makers anticipate episodes of unhealthy air, as well as accelerate research into the factors that influence air quality.
The system, which draws on observations of pollutants, weather forecasts and advanced computer modeling, will complement existing operational air quality forecasts issued by NOAA.
The NCAR forecasts are primarily for research purposes, but they are based on different techniques than those used by NOAA and can provide state and local officials who are trying to safeguard public health with a more complete picture of air quality.
“It provides decision makers and also the public with an additional piece of information,” said NCAR scientist Gabriele Pfister. “If two forecasts tell you the same thing, that gives you more confidence. If they do not agree, this means that conditions are harder to predict, but you should be prepared for the possibility of unhealthy air quality.”
The work builds on a new forecasting system that NCAR has developed for New Delhi and other heavily polluted parts of northern India. The system can be readily adapted for other regions of the world.