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Brian Eder, Daiwen Kang, S. Trivikrama Rao, Rohit Mathur, Shaocai Yu, Tanya Otte, Ken Schere, Richard Wayland, Scott Jackson, Paula Davidson, Jeff McQueen, and George Bridgers

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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Jassim Al-Saadi, James Szykman, R. Bradley Pierce, Chieko Kittaka, Doreen Neil, D. Allen Chu, Lorraine Remer, Liam Gumley, Elaine Prins, Lewis Weinstock, Clinton MacDonald, Richard Wayland, Fred Dimmick, and Jack Fishman

Accurate air quality forecasts can allow for mitigation of the health risks associated with high levels of air pollution. During September 2003, a team of NASA, NOAA, and EPA researchers demonstrated a prototype tool for improving fine particulate matter (PM2.5) air quality forecasts using satellite aerosol observations. Daily forecast products were generated from a near-real-time fusion of multiple input data products, including aerosol optical depth (AOD) from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS)/Earth Observing System (EOS) instrument on the NASA Terra satellite, PM2.5 concentration from over 300 state/local/national surface monitoring stations, meteorological fields from the NOAA/NCEP Eta Model, and fire locations from the NOAA/National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) Wildfire Automated Biomass Burning Algorithm (WF_ABBA) product. The products were disseminated via a Web interface to a small group of forecasters representing state and local air management agencies and the EPA. The MODIS data improved forecaster knowledge of synoptic-scale air pollution events, particularly over oceans and in regions devoid of surface monitors. Forecast trajectories initialized in regions of high AOD offered guidance for identifying potential episodes of poor air quality. The capability of this approach was illustrated with a case study showing that aerosol resulting from wildfires in the northwestern United States and southwestern Canada is transported across the continent to influence air quality in the Great Lakes region a few days later. The timing of this demonstration was selected to help improve the accuracy of the EPA's AIRNow (www.epa.gov/airnow/) next-day PM2.5 air quality index forecast, which began on 1 October 2003. Based on the positive response from air quality managers and forecasters, this prototype was expanded and transitioned to an operational provider during the summer of 2004.

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