Colorado air quality alerts go live on weather.gov
For immediate release: July 24, 2019
Jessica Bralish, Director of Communications
DENVER: Colorado residents and visitors who are planning outdoor activities and trying to help reduce pollution can now check weather.gov for the state’s air quality alerts, thanks to a collaboration between the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the National Weather Service.
The two agencies created a system that allows the weather service to receive air quality advisories issued by the department’s Air Pollution Control Division.
“A couple of decades ago, the data used to be transmitted by teletype,” said department supervisory meteorologist Scott Landes, “but the data transfer lapsed when computers took over. I wanted to resurrect this partnership.”
Landes and fellow department meteorologists Dan Welsh, Amber Ortega and Kevin Briggs prepare daily air quality forecasts. Their colleague, program developer Ivan Franklin, drew from his software development background and created a system that allows more flexibility in forecasting air quality and transmits the resulting advisories to the National Weather Service. On the other end, Information Technology Officer David Metze developed a system that receives the advisories and publishes them on weather.gov.
Landes described his elation when their efforts paid off. “I got to work on July 3, and Ivan told me to look at weather.gov,” he said. “I jumped out of my seat.”
Although the department also publishes alerts on its air quality website, the collaboration increased the audience size twentyfold, making the alerts readily available for a variety of concerned groups, from TV meteorologists to outdoor athletes to parents of kids with asthma.
Based on the six levels of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index, which range from good to hazardous, the alerts warn people in sensitive groups to avoid outside exposure because of high levels of ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide or sulfur dioxide. Those who are more sensitive to air quality risks include people with heart or lung disease, older adults and children.
“Our alerts not only protect those with medical problems, but they also give Coloradans the chance to reduce pollution by ditching their cars on high-ozone days,” Landes said. “We’re excited about this opportunity to reach more people than ever before.”