Monday, October 22, 2007

poisonous air

oh how lovely...

air quality is lovely across the nation. except the little corner in the lower left--the one marked in bright red.

the color legend marks "good quality" as being green, "moderate" as yellow, "unhealthy for sensitive people" as orange, and "unhealthy" as red. this, of course, is the current state of Southern California.

contrary to popular stereotype, the cause is not smog (even though current temps of around 90 certainly exacerbate this). rather, it's a sudden onslaught of wildfires. and i mean sudden--as in the space of a few hours.

check out the following satellite images for October 22, and note the time stamps on each:
note: no major indications of fires, apart from the areas in Malibu (the white tracers coming off the shore). incidentally, the Malibu fires came Saturday night and erupted by Sunday morning, shutting down the entire community.

note: that's right, 2:50 pm. only a little over 3 hours later. it was an eruption across major stretches of the outlying suburbs in the foothills and mountains.

this isn't the half of it. there's apparently also fires raging east of LA and south towards Orange County and San Diego. meaning there's flames all around the city. i tried to find satellite image showing these, but the fires have only occurred in the past few hours, and so i'm guessing satellite imagery hasn't quite caught up yet. the point is that--while not evident from the above photos--this entire region is now afloat in a ring of wildfires being carried towards the city regardless of which direction the wind is blowing.

you can sort of see it in this satellite image:
note: the white tracers are plumes of smoke and ash. the red dots are computer-generated indicators of fires.

it's not helpful that the city of Los Angeles and its related metropolitan communities all sit in a basin facing the ocean and surrounded by foothills and mountains. because all the fires are in the foothills and mountains, this means that the heavier particulate matter rising from the flames are being blown down into the basin, where they settle out of the higher winds and sink into the relatively still air within the local neighborhoods.

isn't that nice?

those of you familiar with this kind of thing know what i'm getting at: smoke and ash.

lots of it.

bad enough that you can feel it in your lungs. i kind of knew something was up, since my nostrils started burning around lunchtime and i've become a non-stop snot factory since then. which is odd, seeing i have no allergies during this time of year. i also now have a major headache, a sore throat, and tightness in the chest. it doesn't help that the level of pollution in the soil around here makes all the smoke and ash toxic.

i'm not the only one. everyone else i've spoken to around campus is saying the same (or similar) things, with the same (or similar) symptoms. and they all noticed around the same time i did.

as athletes, you also know the consequence of this: no training.


oh you could go out and get a workout in. but based on the particulate matter readings, you'd be inhaling enough material that you'd end up doing long-term damage to your lungs. this would effectively negate any benefits from training in terms of increased conditioning, and very likely actually incur costs from decreased conditioning. working out in these conditions--hell, just breathing in these conditions--is tantamount to sucking in poisonous air. who knows what it's doing to your insides.

i'm not particularly happy. this was supposed to be a build week. an important one. now it may not be anything.

and i feel particularly bad for all communities getting torched (literally) by this. i've got friends from communities in the affected areas, and they're freaking out. tough situation. they've got my sympathies.

i guess on a morbidly (and perhaps inappropriately poor taste) positive note, i suppose this means more time for me to work on my dissertation and hunt down a post-doc. yippee!

hey, you have to be as constructive as you can, right?

i'm really worried this may go on for awhile. Southern California is in the worst drought it's had in the past 50 years, and everybody is talking about how dry everything is--trees, shrubs, grass, weeds, dirt. dry dry dry. parched to a crispy crumbly crackly goodness. just perfect to serve as...tinder.

yeah, this is going to go on for awhile. and that's not good. not for me, and not for anybody.

1 comment:

Trihardist said...

The SoCal Katrina.