The National Air Quality Forecast Capability (NAQFC) currently provides next-day forecasts of ozone concentrations over the contiguous United States. It was developed collaboratively by NOAA and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in order to provide state and local agencies, as well as the general public, air quality forecast guidance. As part of the development process, the NAQFC has been evaluated utilizing strict monitor-to-gridcell matching criteria, and discrete-type statistics of forecast concentrations. While such an evaluation is important to the developers, it is equally, if not more important, to evaluate the performance using the same protocol as the model's intended application. Accordingly, the purpose of this article is to demonstrate the efficacy of the NAQFC from the perspective of a local forecaster, thereby promoting its use. Such an approach has required the development of a new evaluation protocol: one that examines the ability of the NAQFC to forecast values of the EPA's Air Quality Index (AQI) rather than ambient air concentrations; focuses on the use of categorical-type statistics related to exceedances and nonexceedances; and, most challenging, examines performance, not based on matched grid cells and monitors, but rather over a “local forecast region,” such as an air shed or metropolitan statistical area (MSA). Results from this approach, which is demonstrated for the Charlotte, North Carolina, MSA and subsequently applied to four additional MSAs during the summer of 2007, reveal that the quality of the NAQFC forecasts is generally comparable to forecasts from local agencies. Such findings will hopefully persuade forecasters, whether they are experienced with numerous tools at their disposal or inexperienced with limited resources, to utilize the NAQFC as forecast guidance.

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National Exposure Research Laboratory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina

Science and Technology Corporation, Hampton, Virginia

Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service, Silver Spring, Maryland

Division of Air Quality, North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, Raleigh, North Carolina