UH Moment: "Ozone"

Is it a day to go out or stay in?  It's a good question for anyone, but if you have breathing challenges it's important to know the answer.

Houston is ranked 7th among cities with the worst ozone and is home to more than 400,000 people with asthma. Now a new tool can help pinpoint the development of dangerous ozone in specific areas in Houston, helping those with breathing challenges better plan their time outdoors.

The Houston Clean Air Network tool is available online. 

Thanks to 44 monitoring sites, computer users can type in a specific address around Houston and see where the ozone issues are occurring and growing.

'You can look at the animation and you can do your own forecast of when that ozone cloud is going to reach your neighborhood," said Barry Lefer, UH professor of atmospheric science and atmospheric chemistry, and collaborator on the online tool.  'It's like looking at a radar image of a storm."  

Lefer and Honors College Professor Dan Price collaborated with Air Alliance Houston, the American Lung Association and others. What sets this tool apart from current monitoring systems is that it provides up to the minute information, while others convey ozone information that can be up to an hour old.

'It takes monitored data and lets the public visualize that data efficiently and quickly," Price said.  'It's a real time or near real time description of the ozone in Houston."

This up to the minute information is new to ozone prediction and is coming soon to GPS and smart phone apps.  Price says making this tool is not about policy:

'There's actually just one reason (to create this tool) that's health," Price said.

Lefer agreed, saying, 'it's giving the power to the people to make informed decisions."