Via The Los Angeles Times: Exceptional dryness brings the hazy days of winter. Excerpt:
California's exceptionally dry winter is having a visible consequence: bad air.
A high-pressure zone off the West Coast that has been warding off rain for months has worsened air pollution across California and the Southwest. The stagnant conditions have trapped fine particles close to the ground, leaving a buildup of sooty haze that poses a threat to people's health.
To keep pollution levels down, air quality officials in California have issued an unprecedented number of no-burn alerts that ban wood fires in homes. Even so, clinics report treating more patients who have trouble breathing, tightness in their chest, itchy eyes and runny noses.
"It's not just an inconvenience, it's a significant health issue," said Dr. Sunil Saini, an allergist in Upland. Saini said he typically sees a drop-off in patients with respiratory problems starting in December. "This year we haven't seen that decrease."
The region, with some of the dirtiest basins in the nation, usually counts on a few big winter storms to scour away pollution. Santa Ana winds and short-lived breezes have circulated the air a bit, but it hasn't been enough, air quality officials said.
Since last month, the Bay Area, the Central Valley and Southern California have contended with spells of dirty air that have not relented for days or even weeks.
Forecasters do not predict any rainstorms through the end of the month, which would make this California's driest January on record. Last year was California's driest calendar year in 119 years of record-keeping, and Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency on Friday.
Nowhere in the state has the air been worse than in the San Joaquin Valley, where pollution-trapping conditions have pushed daily averages of fine particles in Bakersfield, Hanford and other communities to more than triple the federal standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter.
The air has been so unhealthful at times that officials have issued dozens of Level 5 advisories, the highest on their five-point scale, and advised people to stay indoors. Some high school soccer games and swim meets were canceled or postponed.