January in Aspen brought some low temperatures, but surprisingly was about average, while January PM-10 particulate air pollution levels were a good illustration of what makes PM-10 levels go up and down, according to the City of Aspen’s data.
“Snow tended to lower PM-10 levels by covering dirt on roads so traffic could not kick it up into the air,” said Lee Cassin, director for Environmental Health. “High traffic times, like during X-Games and Winterskol, had higher PM-10 levels than other days. However, PM-10 levels throughout the month were extremely low.”
With little melting and not much sand put down, there was less dirt on the roads to be ground up by traffic. The worst day had 17 millionths of a gram of PM-10 particulate pollution in every cubic meter of air. That compares to the federal standard of 150, though much lower levels are now known to cause health effects. PM-10 causes increased rates of hospitalization, respiratory illness and death, even at moderate levels. Click here for a graph of PM-10: Janpm10.pdf.
It is hard to believe, but this cold January was about average in terms of temperature. There were actually fewer below-zero days than average for January. January overnight low temperatures are continuing to increase at a rate of one degree warmer each decade. January snowfall was lower than average, but not as low as in 2003. Snow depth at the end of the month was 19 inches compared to an average of 28 inches at the end of January over the last ten years, but greater than the depth in 2003 at the end of January.
And 2000-2009 was the warmest decade on record. NASA data shows that the decade ending in 2009 was the warmest on record globally. 2009 was the second warmest year since 1880, when modern record-keeping began. 2005 was the warmest year.
The City of Aspen has several programs citizens can join if they want to reduce either their PM-10 or greenhouse gas emissions. Free in-town buses, HOV lanes, paid parking (revenues paying for transit), rebates for free home energy audits for Aspen Electric customers, CORE rebates for home efficiency upgrades and the ability to buy Canary Tags to offset greenhouse gas emissions that cannot be avoided are all available options.
For more information on air quality in Aspen, visit www.aspenpitkin.com/Departments/Environmental-Health. For information on Aspen’s global warming programs, go to www.aspenpitkin.com/Departments/Canary-Initiative/.