Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Now You Can See Houston’s Smog Levels in Real Time

Photo by Joe Raedle/Newsmakers

Hazy smog blankets Houston during a hot summer day in 2000.

If your daily jogging routine sometimes calls for a respirator, you’ll want to check this out: a new interactive map that shows you smog levels throughout the Houston area.

The map, a joint project of the University of Houston, the American Lung Association, and the environmental group Air Alliance Houston, displays current smog levels from six monitoring stations throughout the Houston area. The information comes from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Smog info is already available through government agencies, but there’s one caveat: the data available is 1.5 hours old. With this new map, the data is real-time. “This is important because ozone values can change quickly,” Air Alliance Houston notes in a press release, “and people in sensitive groups need to know actual exposure levels.”

Smog is the same thing as ozone. In the higher levels of the earth’s atmosphere, ozone is a good thing. But at the lower levels of the atmosphere, pollutants from vehicles, refineries, and power plants result in bad ozone, aka smog. When those chemicals react with sunlight, they become harmful.

Smog can cause illness and health issues. Children, the elderly, especially those with conditions like asthma.

As of this post, all of the monitors in Houston are showing “good” levels, but the national air quality index is forecasting worse levels of smog in both Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth later today, at the level of “USG,” where “members of sensitive groups may experience health effects” but the levels aren’t high enough to affect the general public. Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston had the worst smog conditions in the state last year.

You can check out the map here.


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