Winter Storm Systems Keeping Washoe County’s Air Quality Clean

Motor vehicles, household heating appliances and gas degrade air quality. Winter storms assist in keeping the valleys air clean.
Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 9:43 AM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Air pollution can cause a variety of health problems. Accelerated aging of the lungs, asthma and cancer are some of the most common.

Matt McCarthy is an air quality specialist. He works for the Washoe County Health District’s Air Quality Management Division. He said the current air quality is good, due to the consistent weather patterns that have hovered for the past few months.

The main causes of air pollution are motor vehicles, household heating appliances and gas. McCarthy says due to our geographical location there are some notable issues with ventilation.

”Since we do live in a valley, one of the issues we do run into is stagnant air or poor ventilation. So as a lot of people know we do suffer from inversion layers in the winter,” said McCarthy.

An inversion layer occurs when cold air gets stuck on the ground and trapped by warmer air, negating its ability to escape from the valleys air basin. He described it to me as a lid being placed on top of a pot.

I followed McCarthy to one of the seven flagstaffs located in Washoe County. At the flagstaffs, air quality specialists analyze and compute data to determine the current state of air quality.

As the climate continues to warm up, especially as we inch closer to fire season, he cautions people to be aware of sudden drops in air quality.

“People should be aware that air quality conditions can degrade very quickly,” said McCarthy. “We suggest that people know where to go to get the current air quality conditions and the coming air quality forecast.”

To stay up to date, he recommends visiting their website, AirNow.Gov. If you type in your zip code you will be able to see the current air quality and future forecasts in your local area.