Posted by Eric Berger at 6:55 AM
Good morning. While our weather remains exceptionally fine for this time of year, we do have some significant air quality concerns for the metro area.
First, and most dramatically, is the Deer Park Fire incident at the Intercontinental Terminals Company, which continues to burn unrestrained this morning. The key thing to watch, in terms of weather, is “mixing heights,” which is the level that smoke from the fire will rise in response to the atmospheric profile. Put another way, the smoke will rise as long as it is warmer than the surrounding air. These mixing heights have lowered this morning to about 500 feet, in response to cooler nighttime temperatures, but they should steadily rise to about 5,000 feet or so today, keeping the smoke plume above the ground.
A number of readers have asked how concerned we should be about this fire in terms of air quality. This is beyond my scope of expertise, but overall I would just say this incident is pretty egregious, and that we should hold our elected officials accountable for the leaders the appoint to agencies like the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which theoretically should be preventing accidents like these, monitoring them, and ensuring they don’t happen again. The chemical industry provides many good paying jobs for the Houston region, but that doesn’t mean we should accept accidents such as these as part of the bargain.
The other concern we have this morning is our ongoing battle with spring pollen season. Tree pollen remains “extremely heavy” in the city of Houston, and grass pollen is also a problem as well. Most of the tree pollen is coming from oaks. This problem will likely persist until the region gets its next moderate to heavy rainfall, which may come around Monday—or maybe not even then. Now, onto the forecast.