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Friday, July 28, 2017

WHAT HAPPENED TO ACID RAIN?



In the Fall of 1948, Donora, Pennsylvania choked for five days, killing 20 and seriously affecting 7000 from the combustion of coal.  In December of 1952, the Great London Smog probably killed 10,000 during a deadly smog under similar circumstances.

These incidents triggered the 1955 Air Pollution Control Act.  There was no enforcement provision, as the Federal government was just told to provide information.  States did what they had to do.

I flew into Los Angeles in 1958 and met their smog.  It was terrible, my eyes watered and I worried about the long-term effect on my lungs.  New York City suffered their historic smog during Thanksgiving of 1966, but major episodes had also occurred in 1953 and 1966.

Congress amended that earlier legislation in 1963, then again in 1965, and created the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.  I spent a good part of the 1970's teaching environmental engineering and being director of the University of Hawaii Environmental Center.  The term acid rain was coined in 1972 by Robert Angus Smith, but it was not until this period that scientists began to get funded to study this phenomenon, which simply is caused by coal power plants and combustion vehicles spewing out gases that become sulfuric and nitric acids in the atmosphere

One more legislative refinement came in 1990, specifically to address acid rain.  Well, give the U.S. Congress some credit.  These laws largely helped to improve our atmosphere.  End of story and this posting?  Well, no.

Air pollution is worsening in India, China, the Middle East, South America and Africa.  Everyone now knows how bad Chinese cities are.  I've stopped going to Beijing because I caught a cough, which took me two months to shake.  India will soon be worse than China, but the Middle East might just be even worse.

Globally, the number of deaths attributable to PM2.5—fine particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 microns that reduces visibility and can create respiratory issues—rose from 3.5 million in 1990 to 4.2 million in 2015, according to the State of Global Air Report 2017, a joint study by the Health Effects Institute in Boston, Massachusetts and the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle, Washington. More than half of these deaths occurred in India and China together: deadly air claimed 1.1 million lives in each country.

Air Quality Index
(AQI) Values
Levels of Health ConcernColors
When the AQI is in this range:..air quality conditions are:...as symbolized by this color:
0 to 50 GoodGreen
51 to 100 ModerateYellow
101 to 150 Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups Orange
151 to 200Unhealthy Red
201 to 300Very UnhealthyPurple
301 to 500HazardousMaroon


You will need to click on that map to read the details, but in summary:
  • Hawaii has a 12 rating.  This measurement was taken at Sand Island next to the airport.  This past year has been unusually healthy for Honolulu, for our prevailing winds have pushed the emissions of the continuing volcanic eruption from Kilauea away from Oahu.
  • China and India, actually, were not so bad...yesterday.  Certainly a lot of unhealthy to hazardous numbers, but I've seen a lot worse.
  • I wondered why South Korea looked undocumented, and got this interesting shifting time pollution map.  The U.S. looks okay, but what is that 418 AQI from W. Franklin, Shelton Washington?  Went to check, and no forest fires.  ????
  • Those Mexican maroons?  Not sure why, but industrial pollution is notorious in the country, much worse than simple human-caused bad air over Mexico City, which was "only" 156 yesterday.


The worst yesterday was Izmir, Turkey, at 880.  Why?  There are studies indicating Turkey's industries are serious polluters, and Izmir is certainly one location.


When I went around the world last year I never saw stars at night.  In every major city there was significant air pollution.  I was shocked at the air in Dubai, which does not have much oil.  Their solution, I guess, is that they don't report anymore.  But if you click on this map, you know it has to be terrible.  The World Bank has a Little Green Data Book, listing the United Arab Emirates as worse than China and India.

The WHO said 98 percent of urban areas in “low- and middle-income countries” with populations of more than 100,000 fall shy of the group’s air quality standards.

Thus, air pollution in India costs hundreds of billions--billions, mind you--every year, according to a study in Geophysical Research Letters.  Another report, from Nature, indicated that fine particulate matter is responsible for about 3 million deaths worldwide each year, so I guess other kinds of air pollution must be to blame for the 4+ million/year mentioned above.

So Acid Rain in the media became simple air pollution.  Mind you, the Environmental Protection Agency indicated that we still have Acid Rain.  Acid Rain remains devastating, even in the USA.  To the left is a recent map.  But U.S. and European laws have made a difference, shifting the serious effects today mostly to Asia, the Middle East and Mexico.  

Apparently President Trump wants to return those polluting industries back to the United States.  Further, his slashing of the EPA budget looms to return portions of the country back to the bad old days of Acid Rain anyway.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, again, broke its all-time record, up 34 to 21,830.  I guess Trump must be something right.

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Typhoon Noru is now projected to make a sudden right turn, even further threatening Iwo Jima.  Current models now shows a possible landfall over Japan.  This is one of the screwiest storms I've seen.


Typhoon Nesat will soon strike Taiwan, but much further north of Taitung, probably closer to Hualien:



A long time ago the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research worked with the Taiwanese Industrial Technology Research Institute on a plan to build an experimental OTEC facility here.

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