Placer air quality dropping, temperature rising

Weather Alert
By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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Imagine clamping on the lid of a pressure cooker and then cranking up the heat. That’s what’s in store for the Auburn area over the next few days as a high-pressure system cooks Northern California under an invisible dome. Weather forecasters are predicting temperatures will return to triple digits for the first time since late June. Pollution is also on an upward trend – with unhealthy ozone levels predicted today. Ozone strikes the Auburn area hardest as pollutants build in the late afternoon and react with sunlight during the most torrid temperatures of the day between 4 and 6 p.m. Karl Swanberg, forecaster with Sacramento’s National Weather Service office, said a high pressure system has been building and extending from the Southwest desert region. That means high temperatures of about 100 degrees in the Auburn area through at least the end of the work week, he said. “The system will seal things in like a pressure cooker,” Swanberg said. Encompassing Auburn and other western Placer County areas, the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District is forecasting ozone pollution will shoot up from moderately healthy highs of 77 Tuesday to Air Quality Index levels of 142 today. A reading of 142 means the air is unhealthy for sensitive groups. It’s also just eight points shy of a Spare The Air Day, when warnings of unhealthy air are issued to the region and people are advised to limit outdoor activity. Heather Kukio, Placer County Air Pollution Control District air-quality specialist, said the area has been spared in recent days from increased ozone levels because of the absence of a ridge of high pressure. At this time last year, the foothills was continuing to be covered in a veil of smoke from nearby forest fires. Kukio said firefighters should get kudos for work earlier this week in snuffing out several fires caused by lightning strikes that could have resulted in a new round of smoke. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at