Top Left: Boney Ridge, NPS photo
Top Right and Bottom: Santa Monica Mountains NRA, NPS photos

Once notorious for having some of the worst air in the nation, air quality in Southern California has continually improved despite an enormous increase in population and cars. Maximum levels of ozone, one of our worst smog problems, have been cut to less than one quarter of what they were in the 1950s, even though today we have nearly three times as many people and four times as many vehicles. Poor air quality, including those caused by toxic air pollutants and the chemicals that form acid rain and ground-level ozone, can damage the natural environment such as trees and plants, animals, and even lakes and other aquatic life. In addition to damaging the natural environment, air pollution also damages buildings, monuments, and statues. It not only reduces how far you can see in national parks and cities, it even interferes with aviation.

Though there is no current monitoring at Coastal Southern California national park, the Environmental Protection Agency, States, and Federal land management agencies have conducted monitoring of air pollution and visibility impairment at a number of national parks and wilderness areas across the United States since 1988. The parks are excellent laboratories to conduct research on air and the atmospheric factors that are responsible for poor air quality. Data from air quality research provides park managers better information on (1) the most important processes and sources contributing to poor air quality, (2) the impacts of poor air quality, and (3) potential solutions, including the development of tools to support effective decision-making.