When it comes to air quality, Seattle avoids the S word


Current Puget Sound Air Quality Agency burning bans

Current Puget Sound Clean Air Agency burning bans

For some days, chilly Seattle and environs have been in the grip of what the local news media keep calling fog. But I’m still wheezing after having refereed youth soccer for several hours this afternoon on Beacon Hill in Seattle. Before becoming New To Seattle, I lived for years around Los Angeles, and prior to that, Albuquerque and Houston, all cities with persistent air quality problems. I know smog when I breathe it, and believe me, this is smog.

But that wouldn’t mesh with the narrative of Seattle as a pristine place in perfect harmony with nature. So the news accounts generally just reference fog, which seems so refreshing. “Foggy weather to last into weekend,” said a typical recent post on the website of KING-TV. Here’s a headline on the website of another TV station, KOMO: “Time lapse video shows Space Needle towering above fog.” To me, the video looks suspiciously close to what I see from a plane landing at LAX or Burbank on a particularly gruesome day.

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency–there’s a reason why this exists–has laid down a woodburning fireplace usage ban until further notice along with a notso-hotso air quality prediction for the next few days. The National Weather Service today issued an air stagnation advisory.

To be fair, I think this is an unusual event in Seattle, whose air quality I normally find quite acceptable. This is so unlike Los Angeles. Its air inversion pollution problems, largely caused by the San Gabriel Mountains, are so persistent that Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo way back in 1542 named the offshore waters Bay of Smoke because of the overhanging haze from the fires of onshore Indians.

But the current P.R. spin in Seattle clearly has its roots around the City of Angels. In the 1880s, during one of the area’s earliest booms (followed, of course, by one of its earliest bubbles and busts), real estate developers slyly advertised inland lots as being free of “fog-laden sea breezes.”

But meantime, I guess I’m just going to have to put up with the smog   fog-laden sea breezes   fog for awhile. Fortunately, I’m not scheduled to referee soccer again for at least a few days.

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3 Responses to When it comes to air quality, Seattle avoids the S word

  1. Jack says:

    Um….LA is NOT “DRY” 😐 you make LA sound like an old ladies vagina.
    Right now, our humidity beats yours according to Google. Which means our hot climate + sunny beaches is making the air moist. I have not been to seattle but I think Im going to visit it for a couple of days to see how it is like. But because it is up north where it is usually colder, there is probably some sort of phenomenon with how it interacts with pollution. Im not a pollutionologist so I wouldnt know.

  2. I certainly have been smelling funny stuff, especially when I am up a few hundred feet (like on Beacon Hill refereeing soccer). Seattle smog certainly has more water in it for the simple fact that there is more water here. The reason L.A. smog doesn’t stick to anything is that it is a pretty dry climate. For me, the other irony here is that for all the kvetching in Seattle about rain, it’s rain that will knock this stuff out of the atmosphere and give us back better air.

  3. The Tim says:

    Hah. Seriously though, I’m sure there is some amount of smog contributing to the haze, as it does tend to get a bit hazy whenever we go more than a few days without a decently breezy weather system, but I don’t doubt that most of the fog is genuinely just water vapor.

    LA “fog” has a nasty smell and doesn’t cause condensation all over everything outside. If what we’ve been experiencing is like LA “fog,” then they’re also in on the con down at Sea-Tac Airport, where my outbound flight was delayed ~20 minutes on Thursday due to “freezing fog” icing up the wings. Smog doesn’t do that…

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