Denver air quality vs Houston, PHX or LA? (Colorado Springs, Aurora: new home, live in)
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I've checked out the Denver air quality on AirNow, and you don't fare too badly overall. But then I see many posts referring to the brown haze, brown air, brown ceiling, etc. in the winter (inversion from fireplaces and wood burning?). I'm visiting over Labor Day, but with my luck, it will be a clean air day (not complaining if it is!).
So, to put it in perspective, can anyone provide first-hand comparisons of the air quality in Denver versus the air in PHX, LA or even Houston?
I can't give you a comparison, but I can clarify some things. The brown cloud is definitely NOT from burning wood. The air pollution control program in metro Denver bans burning wood on days of poor air quality. You have to call a number or watch the TV news after 4 PM, when the decision is made for the next 24 hrs. You can be fined for burning wood on a no-burn day. Many people have converted their fireplaces to natural gas, and most new homes are built w/natural gas fireplaces. You also have to get your car inspected for air pollution every few years. You get a notice when it is needed.
Denver's air quality in the winter is not great-- that's for sure. The worst of the air pollution on those days seems to hover around the central Platte valley, downtown, and also around the northwest part of town. Where I live in southeast Aurora/Centennial, since it is slightly higher elevation, is not as polluted. However, I can tell you that Phoenix's air pollution is absolutely horrendous! The last two years at least, pretty much every day between October and March, when Phoenix supposedly has beautiful weather, the pollution was so bad you could see it in the sky. There were many days where the whole city smelled like an oil refinery. All the views of the desert mountains were blocked in the haze of ozone and dust. Unlike Houston's pollution, Phoenix's pollution is more of a dry/dusty air. Pick your poison. I'd say Denver's air is the lesser of the three evils.
I have to state the comparison of the three are like comparing the colors of our nation's flag. Red, white and blue...
What I am trying to say is that Denver air quality exists for a few reasons that most other metropolitan areas can't compare with, inversion.
I have posted about this before in a Grand Junction post. Inversion.
Inversion exists mostly in the winter, although in Denver in recent years the summers are becoming a bit more concerning with the "brown cloud" but again, the valley phenomenom still takes place here.
LA can't be compared because of the sheer size of LA and the fact they don't have a lot of weather fronts that affect them like they do here.
As for Phoenix, it is desert area so I don't know the specifics behind it.
Okay on to Denver and the rest of the Colorado Front Range.
Denver is not immune to 100° in the summertime but they are in a valley (the Platte valley) so in the summer, when it's gets hot, it just kind of lingers there like moisture in a swamp does in the mornings. In the winter though, the entire Front Range has inversions of temps. What happens is that when the cold air comes in, it often gets trapped by warmer air above the surface. Any pollutants are hampered by that inversion (check out places like Missoula, MT they frequently have even worse air pollution than Denver because of inversion) and remain for days.
We have the same problem in Colorado Springs in the wintertime that Denver and Missoula have because of inversion. We don't, however, seem to have the same brown cloud that Denver gets during the summer months. I don't know exactly why but it's cleaner here.
When I lived in Denver, I really didn't notice the "brown cloud" as much. Now when I go up there and we crest the area that is the Lincoln exit on the south end of the metro area on a winter's day (yay for going to Bronco's games) it's very visible. That's not to say I haven't noticed it here in C Springs too but that's in the wintertime as I am driving from my higher perch in Briargate towards the south and southwest part of town.
Not sure if that made any sense but hopefully it made a bit of sense. Generally colder climates will see more of the "brown" cloud because of inversion and in the case of Denver, being in a valley of sorts.
Vegas Pilgrim is right. The past two to three years in Phoenix the winter time air has been the worst Iv'e seen. Three things have all contributed to this. Phoenix, like Denver also has the inversion effect when night time temperatures drop to 30-40 degrees and than heat up to 60-70 in the winter. #2 the lack of winter rains, especially a winter ago when we did not see any rain for 110 plus days did not help. #3 when you have grown to be the 5th or 6th largest city that influx of more cars/people is sure to contribute. Although in the summer the thunderstorm/monsoon season helps to clear the air, the storms that only bring lightning and blowing dust sure don't help
FYI, just yesterday we received our fourth ozone alert of the year. If we get one more we're headed to the EPA for sanctions. I say... GOOD! I predict that we won't face any sanctions (loss of highway dollars), but it will light a fire under our planners to come up with a plan to end the problem.
The latest culprit is not simply hordes of SUVs, but the growing oil and gas industry on the front range, particularly up north. That industry is fairly unregulated in the area of emissions, and that needs to stop. Hopefully our latest alerts will give lawmakers the leverage they need to do some arm twisting of the oil and gas companies.
Ive mentioned this site before on other threads. Go to the American Lung Association's website for reports on Best/Worst air quality. There will also be a small box in which you can type in any zip code and receive an instant report on that particular county. Based on this site's most current report, Colorado (Denver) received 4 ozone days and 8 particle pollution days per year. Phoenix received 25 ozone days and 7 particle pollution days. Houston received 113 ozone days and 5 particle pollution days. And now, are you ready for L.A. County??? Drum roll, please.... 209 ozone days and 142 particle pollution days. This is one of the main reasons I hope to leave California. It definitely affects our health. People here, along with their children, walk around with their inhalers as if it's just a normal part of life. How sad.
The only way to compare is to look at actual numbers. Not numbers of "alert days" but the actual AQI (Air Quality Index). They call an ozone alert here in Denver when the level reaches what they call "Moderate" back in Fresno where I came from. Fresno has so many "unhealthful" days that a "moderate" day is an improvement. In Denver the same AQI triggers an "alert". I don't know numbers off the top of my head, but the air in Denver is no where near as bad at LA. My husband and I scoff at an ozone alert here because the worst day here is still better than what we were breathing a few months ago in Fresno.
Air quality really isn't much of a problem in Colorado however Denver's altitude is pretty HIGH so what you should be leery about is your heart and lungs. The higher the altitude the harder your body has to work. Many people who are not from Denver complain about not being able to breathe properly; hopefully you don't have asthma. However after you are there long enough your body may adjust.
I live outside of Denver and the air quality for personally has been affected by the forest fire near Ft. Collins. Which is not getting under control anytime soon, and we are just at the beginning of fire season. Most days the mountains are just in a haze (and I'm further west, closer to the mountains, than Denver.) On top of that, the air is really dry (7 percent humidity or something) which is hard to get used to.
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