The year began with Los Angeles enjoying a 21-day stretch of smog-free days that overlapped with the start of coronavirus stay-at-home orders, fueling hopes that dramatic cuts in driving would at least clean the air.
That turned out to be wishful thinking. The year 2020 will instead go down as one of Southern California’s smoggiest in decades.
Once the air-cleansing March weather went away, the region plunged into a late spring and summer with intense heat waves that contributed to the worst ozone pollution readings and highest number of bad air days since the mid-1990s. Smog hit abnormally high levels throughout the region, from inland areas to the coast. By fall, the state had experienced the worst and most widespread bout of health-damaging wildfire smoke on record.
In all, this year there were 157 bad air days for ozone pollution — the invisible, lung-searing gas in smog — across the vast, coast-to-mountains basin spanning Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. That’s the most days above the federal health standard since 1997.
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