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Reporting on science, technology and innovation in Arizona and the Southwest through a collaboration from Arizona NPR member stations. This project is funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.Additional stories from the Arizona Science Desk are posted at our collaborating station, KJZZ: http://kjzz.org/science

ADEQ: El Niño Rains Bring “Exceptional” Air Quality To Arizona

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Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
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Frequent, intense storms, like those seen during strong El Niño conditions, mean less dust in the air statewide.

Eric Massey is the director of air quality for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. He said wind and precipitation have created almost “pristine” air conditions.

“The rain that we see is actually nature’s scrubber. It removes air pollution from the air, it does actually help to stabilize the soil," Massey said. "And then the soil that collects all that water generally has a little bit more vegetation that grows, which will also aid in the stabilization of the soil.”

Massey said the recent rains likely will provide dust relief for the next month or so. More rain would extend that window.

Cold temperatures in the winter season also improve ozone concentrations, another driver of air quality. Burning wood fires, however, releases more harmful soot in the air.

You can find state air quality reports at http://www.azdeq.gov/environ/air/index.html.