Air Quality

Scientific buildings and instruments behind green and pink plants, in front of a stormy sky.
The Air Quality Station at Chiricahua National Monument.

NPS/ Resource Management Division

Visitors who stand at Massai Point, the second highest vistapoint in the monument, can usually see a hundred miles in any direction. The sky is a vivid blue, and the cracks and crevices of Cochise Stronghold, 60 miles away, can be clearly seen. This viewshed--the wonderland of rocks--is what visitors come to see. Chiricahua National Monument is designated a Class I airshed under the Clean Air Act, which requires the highest level of air-quality protection. Many National Parks and wilderness areas are designated Class I, but not all of them have clean air. Many parks in the eastern U.S. and elsewhere are suffering the consequences of air pollution from nearby urban areas, including the detrimental impacts of acid rain and ozone. State and Federal regulations attempt to curtail actions that may detrimentally affect air quality or the public health, but it is sometimes difficult to determine where air pollution is coming from, and even more difficult to correct the problem.

The monument maintains an Air Quality Station which tracks visibility, particulates, ozone, nitrates, sulfides, dioxins, and rainwater deposition. This data is analyzed and used to determine overall air quality, and factors or events that may be having detrimental effects on the air. This information can help managers decide what future actions may be necessary to maintain the current level of air quality, or to make improvements. The monument's close proximity to Mexico makes it a prime candidate for monitoring the effect of Mexico's pollution on air quality in the United States. Smelting, manufacturing and power plants on the other side of the border produce pollutants that can be carried into the monument. That, along with plans to build an additional incinerator and power plants within 50 miles of the monument, makes it even more critical that baseline air quality data be collected.

Learn about current air quality conditions at other park sites around the United States.

Last updated: December 13, 2018

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