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Earth Friendly: Learn about Ozone Action Days

By By Kate Garcia
May 9, 2013 at 12:09 a.m.


"I write to find out what I didn't know I knew."

- Robert Frost

I found out quickly there were lots of things I still had to learn about air quality. Luckily, learning is one of those things unlike falling off a horse or getting hit by a paintball; it very rarely hurts.

It began to strike me that if I didn't know this stuff, there's a pretty darn good chance that there were others out there that may not know this stuff.

Take for instance that May 1 was the beginning of Ozone Action Days for the Victoria area. I figure that's a pretty good place to start sharing with everyone what I've learned thus far, and like I mentioned before, this shouldn't hurt.

Ozone Action Days span from the beginning of May to the end of September. During this time, there is a higher likelihood of ozone creation. When I began working for Environmental Services, I thought bad ozone was created by heat.

I mean, that wasn't a really wild stretch so least I thought. In science, we are taught that heat causes molecules to react and bond. However, sunlight is the main catalyst in the chemical reaction between molecules that create the ozone. These molecules are photosensitive.

The term photosensitive means sensitive to light.

Photosensitive molecules are bound together once presented to sunlight. These photosensitive molecules that create the ozone are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) which are both largely from on-road traffic (public vehicles).

The sun shines all year, so what's so special about summer sun versus any other time of the year? Boy, would my college science professor at UHV be proud to know I learned this in her class. The difference between sunshine during ozone season and any other is the summer solstice.

During the summer solstice, the sun's rays hit our part of the Earth almost directly overhead versus at an angle spreading the sunlight across a larger area.

This means that the concentration of the sun's rays over our area during the late spring and summer months sends the VOC and NOx molecules into overdrive. This potentially increases the levels of bad ozone more so than in the beginning and end of the year.

We can all reduce the likelihood of harmful ozone creation by stopping at the click when gassing up vehicles, idling vehicles less and mowing after 5 p.m.

For the duration of ozone season, we will be concentrating on the topic of air quality; what exactly is ozone, prevention of harmful ozone creation, the science behind ozone, our role in data collection and research, etc.

It's amazing what you forget you knew once you sit down and write about a particular topic.

Kate Garcia is the interim programs coordinator for the City of Victoria, Environmental Services.

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