How Now, Brown Cloud?

phoenix brown cloud.jpg

If you're still debating with yourself (or online) about whether the premium price for a hybrid makes sense, stick your head out the window and breath deeply. Smell that savings? Miles per gallon is only part of the payback. A big chunk of sustainability gold lies under that brown cloud a-brewing. If you live in Denver or Los Angeles or Phoenix, for example, the health risk of plain brown wrapper ICE propulsion is up front and personal. Only extensive reliance on hybrid propulsion, combined with mandatory diesel particulate filtration, can make personal vehicles sustainable in the North American metropolis. [We're saving sprawl control and public transit for another post.] With a few geographic exceptions, every other propulsion option is unsustainable in terms of health effects. Fuel cells will take decades and we don't have decades to wait. From the Airizona Republic of October 3, 2005, comes sufficient illustration. "The Valley's Brown Cloud is back, and it's a bit early. The layer of visible particulates blanketed the horizon Wednesday and Thursday mornings, days before environmental officials annually declare an end to the summer air pollution season and start of the winter season, when the ugly layer of air usually appears".

"Stagnant air and an increase in particulates, made up of car and truck emissions and dust, are the reason for the early appearance, according to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. Throw in a dry September and a hay fire in the west Valley, and the result is a Brown Cloud that may not be following the standard winter patterns....Ending today is the ozone season, when the same pollutants, heated up, create the colorless, odorless gas that damages the respiratory system, reduces breathing capacity and causes chest pain, headache and a sore throat. Individuals with chronic respiratory diseases are especially susceptible to ozone. Steve Owens, ADEQ director, said the Valley had an average ozone season with no specific concerns...There's two ways to look at it," he said. "The good news is that we stayed even, even with more growth and more driving. The bad news is that there continues to be more growth and more driving.""

"The winter's Brown Cloud, often visible Valley-wide as a layer of thick yellow-brown gunk hanging near the ground, accounts for an additional 250 to 1,000 deaths a year from respiratory ailments, according to the Governor's Brown Cloud Summit...The pollutants that make up the Brown Cloud are present year-round, said Ben Davis, air-monitoring unit manager for the Maricopa County Air Quality Department...So are thermal inversions, but wintertime provides less heat to generate wind currents, a driving factor in breaking up the thermal inversions that hold in pollution like a lid on a jar".