News / London

Breathe easy, air quality across Ontario is improving

Breathing a little easier this summer?

If the answer’s yes, you’re likely not alone.

With the middle of summer just a couple of weeks away, London has escaped the warmest months of the year without a smog advisory. Add to that, we went the entire summer of 2013 without a care in the world — when it comes to smog anyway.

Use the slider to see the decline in smog advisory days recorded in Ontario cities. If you're having trouble viewing the chart on your mobile device, try this link.

So, what happened to all the nasty that used to keep London summers in the running with Toronto for the number — and length — of smog advisories?

"It’s pretty simply really, says Katie Jordan, spokeswoman with Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change: “Air quality right across the province is improving.”

So much so that the province as a whole only recorded two days under smog advisories in 2013, according to ministry data. Many areas, like London, escaped without any.

Roll the calendar back only as far as 2012 and you’ll see 30 advisory-worthy days for Ontario as a whole and London outpacing Toronto.

There are a number of factors that contribute to smog, some from our own making and the rest from Mother Nature.

She is doing her part to reduce the problem with cooler temperatures and weather patterns that allow ground-level smog, or ozone, to rise and be distributed at higher altitudes.

Other factors include a 30 per cent reduction in fine particulate matter and a 40 per cent reduction in nitrous dioxide, Jordan said.

“We have seen significant reductions in both of them over the last 10 years,” she noted, attributing the decrease to the closure of five coal-fired generating plants and further reductions through the Ontario Drive Clean program.

Drive Clean alone reduces smog-causing emissions by one-third each year, she said.

On the weather side of the equation, hot, humid days are most likely to contribute to smoggy conditions.

This year, those days have been few and far between said Environment Canada meteorologist Geoff Coulson.

“July has been pretty telling, we usually expect days of high 20s and low 30s, and we just haven’t had that,” he said.

But, he noted, “the weather pattern is shifting and there will be more opportunities for that hot, humid weather.”

So, take a deep breath a soldier on.

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