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Earth Friendly: Prepare for springtime

By BY KATE GARCIA
March 13, 2014 at midnight
Updated March 12, 2014 at 10:13 p.m.


Spring is just around the corner.

The term cold front has almost become a dirty word around these parts, as we trudge through a few more weeks of winter thanks to Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog that doomed us to more cold weather.

If you are like me, you just aren't built for the cold.

I can't wait for the sun to shine and the warmth of spring. With it will come beautiful wildflowers, perfect weather for horseback rides with my favorite four-legged fur-kid and prime opportunities for doing anything and everything outdoors.

Along with all the glorious warm weather and sunshine spring brings, it also sets our climate up for prime ozone creation.

Way to bring the party down, I know. My deepest apologies, but I only feel it fair to warn you about the woes of ozone.

Like I've mentioned before, ozone can be very helpful high above us in the stratosphere. It shields us from the powerful rays of the sun and protects the Earth's troposphere - the layer of the Earth we live on.

The sun, or more so the sun's light, is a key ingredient in ozone creation.

I wasn't exactly a whiz kid at chemistry, but I'm going to give it my best shot to describe why late spring/early summer is prime time for ozone creation.

Let's start with the natural element we can't control. During early spring and late summer, the Earth's tilt is just right to flood our area with wonderful, glorious sunlight. The light from the sun is actually what causes the change, not the heat from the sun.

The things we have some kind of control over are the reactants.

In a chemical equation, the reactants are the elements that undergo the change. The reactants in ozone creation are produced when we use things that operate by combustible engines or things that burn fossil fuels; those are nitric oxide or nitrogen dioxide and volatile organic compounds.

At this moment, I would like to say that, yes, these things are always in the air year-round, but I am about to blow your mind as to why it's so important to reduce the amounts of these things in the air during ozone season - May through October.

Once we start experiencing calm, warm, bright spring days, we will start seeing more moderate (code yellow) and possibly unhealthy for sensitive groups (code orange) days.

Pop quiz: Can you remember what there is more of during spring and summer? There is more sunlight. What causes the reaction that bonds nitrogen dioxide to volatile organic compounds? Sunlight - not the heat from the sun.

So now you can see why it is especially important during ozone season to practice clean living.

It's as simple as getting fuel in the evenings and stopping at the click or mowing when the sunlight isn't so strong in the early morning or evening.

Remember, the little things all add up to a make a big difference.

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

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