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Metro Atlanta breaks clean air record in 2013

LAWRENCEVILLE — While it has been full of rain clouds, this summer has been free thus far from smog.

With still nary a smog alert in state, the state has passed the previous record for the first exceedance in a calendar year by a week already.

A problem as typical for metro Atlantans each summer as sunburns and sweat, smog is typically cooked by the time temperatures sore in July, but so far so good this year.

The previous record for waiting for smog in summertime in Hotlanta was July 14 of 1997, a year after the Environmental Protection Division began monitoring air quality, said Clean Air Campaign spokesman Brian Carr.

“While this could be considered cause for celebration, it may be short-lived by the time traffic patterns normalize around back-to-school (season),” Carr said. “That’s why now is a good time to try out carpooling, vanpooling, transit or other options and see if they’re a good fit, in order to make the new routine easier when school starts.

The frequent rains have worked to wash away much of the pollutants that typically trigger smog alerts during the summer, Carr said, and kept the temperatures lower than usual.

Earlier this summer, Carr said he would like to take credit for the cleaner air, but while the weather is helping for now, people should pay attention to the smog-related issues they can control, including carpooling, lessening idling in cars and taking transit.

“Obviously, the weather could change at any moment and the region could experience hotter, drier conditions that can make it more conducive for ground-level ozone to form,” he said. “But the other half of the equation is emissions from vehicle tailpipes. That’s why we’re looking ahead to the start of the new school year, when commuter traffic patterns will again normalize and put more strain on peak period travel.

“Excluding weather, the expected increase in commuter traffic in early-August could erase some of the gains the region has made over the summer in terms of healthy air quality,” he added. “That’s why it’s so important now to establish a new routine by choosing commute options.”