Parts of Michigan are experiencing high heat and low air quality. Here's what that means for you. | Michigan Radio
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Parts of Michigan are experiencing high heat and low air quality. Here's what that means for you.

Jul 15, 2019

As Tropical Storm Barry weakens and makes its way north from Louisiana, rain and waves of high heat will be impacting Michigan’s weather. Residents in the lower half of Michigan will see an increase in humidity levels and temperatures over 90 degrees.

July is typically the hottest month of the year for Southeast Michigan, but what people should be prepared for is a high heat index, which rates how it feels outside based on actual humidity and temperature. The high temperatures predicted for this week could actually feel hotter.

Tropical Storm Barry's projected path north.
Credit AccuWeather

With those high temperatures comes great responsibility for people to take care of the air. The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) stated that Ozone Action Days are determined when “hot summer temperatures are expected to combine with pollution to create high amounts of ground-level ozone.”

An Ozone Action Day was declared Monday in Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Grand Rapids. In 2018, nine Ozone Action Days were called in Southeast Michigan, while Grand Rapids had 11.

The orange alerts in today’s forecast means there’s unhealthy air quality. It doesn’t affect everyone, but the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) advises the public in the areas affected to reduce time outside.

Groups who are most sensitive to the current air quality and should reduce outdoor activities or heavy exertions are those with “lung disease such as asthma, older adults, children and teenagers, and people who are active outdoors.”

Infographic explaining ozone and its formation.
Credit Southeast Michigan Council of Governments

Ozone found in the atmosphere is known to be good for health and the environment since it protects living things from ultraviolet rays; however, when ozone is present on the ground-level, or the air we breathe, it becomes a pollutant that has negative impacts on health.

SEMCOG and Michigan EGLE advise the public to also cut down on long drives and postpone pumping gas today to help lower the ozone levels.

Meteorologist Jeff Masters of Weather Underground, says Tropical Storm Barry may aid in reducing the levels with the expected rain.

He said the sun helps drive ozone levels up.

“Ozone levels will improve as it gets later in the day and the sun sets,” Masters said. “At nighttime, levels fall off. And that’s when it’s best to make any necessary trips or fuel up.”

Consumers Energy is sending notifications and emails to customers asking them to set thermostats to 78 degrees when at home and higher when away, to help reduce energy use.

"You’ll typically save 1 to 3 percent on cooling costs for every degree you dial up," they said in a release.