Here’s an air-quality statistic that stopped me cold last week.
In 2013, the San Joaquin Valley set a record for its lowest number of eight-hour ozone exceedances. At the same time, the record-setting low is also the nation’s second-highest number of eight-hour ozone exceedances.
I'll run it by you one more time, because it is just too weird to understand the first time.
The Valley’s air last year breached the federal eight-hour ozone standard only 91 times last year, which breaks the record low of 93 set in 2010. It’s a good sign.
At the same time, 91 was the second-highest total anywhere in the country for 2013. Only the South Coast Air Basin in Southern California was worse at 93.
The number is still considered “preliminary,” meaning authorities continue to analyze the data and adjust the number up or down. It’s not unusual for it to change several times as the actual readings and monitors are checked.
In the last few months, the Valley’s number has been as low as 89 and as high as 92. At one point last week, the Valley’s 92 was higher than South Coast’s 91. Then everything changed this week.
You can see that South Coast’s 2013 total could change slightly and result in the Valley being worst in the country. It’s all pretty close.
But worst or second worst in the country, the message is the same. The Valley’s fight against ozone has progressed from the days when 130 exceedances were common. But this fight is also far from over.