Portal to offer ozone alerts

By Wang Hongyi (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-12-19 07:31

SHANGHAI: An online ozone forecasting system was launched here on Monday to help keep residents abreast of chemical pollutants in the air.

The Shanghai meteorological bureau's official website at www.soweather.com is said to be one of the first in the country to provide residents with daily forecasts of ozone levels.

Geng Fuhai, an official with the bureau, said: "The international community has been promoting the idea of chemical weather forecasts since 2000, and ozone forecasts are an important part of that."

In the high layers of the atmosphere, ozone acts as a protective screen that blocks high levels of UV radiation from the sun. At ground level, it can be harmful to plants, animals and humans, he said.

Experts have said that modern lifestyles have contributed to the increase in the amount of pollutants such as CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) being pumped into the air, which in turn have been increasingly linked to weather changes.

Geng said the forecasting service will help the public to prevent and reduce the effects of ozone on their health.

"Ozone damage initially occurs without any noticeable signs. People who live in areas where ozone levels are frequently high may be susceptible to lung damage," he said.

"The best way to protect people's health is to find out when ozone levels are high and take precautions by reducing exposure to it," he said.

The weather department is also working on forecasting systems for other chemical substances in the air.

Ding Ruoyang, who also works at the bureau, told China Daily: "Studies on aerosols and acid rain are also on our agenda, as they are both closely related to daily life.

"We also want to broaden the alerts to include information on the conditions of vegetation and plants, which will help people with allergies to avoid pollen, for example," he said.

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