Oakland doesn't generally have a problem with smog (we leave that to Southern California), but there are exceptions. (see also: Air Pollution)
Neighborhoods near freeways or industrial sites may have local air pollution problems, as well.
In the winter of 2013-2014, thanks in part to the drought and in part to increased traffic, Oakland and the Bay Area are now smoggy. There has been no rain (which would clear the air), warmer temperatures (which exacerbate the ozone problem), and an inversion layer which traps the pollutants.
On really bad days, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) will call a "Spare the Air Day". As of January 25, 2014, there had been a record-tying 30 Winter Spare the Air Days since November 1st. 1
If the air quality is bad, BAAQMD may recommend people with breathing problems stay indoors. If the air quality becomes really bad, they will even recommend that healthy people avoid heavy outdoor exercise.
During the summer, the problem is made worse by car and truck exhaust; small, unregulated engines like leaf blowers; barbeques; and use of paints and solvents. All of these things contribute to ground level ozone and particulate. See Summer Spare the Air.
During the winter, the same things contribute to smog, but normally the cooler weather makes ground level ozone less of a problem, and particulate is the main problem. Because of this, winter Spare the Air Days come with the added rule of no wood burning; violating the rule can result in fines. The rule is not enforced for homes where wood fires are the only heat source. See Winter Spare The Air.
As they say on the Spare the Air website, "every day is a spare the air day". Which is to say, you should do what you can to reduce air pollution every day, whether there is an alert issued or not. Drive less.
Smash gas-powered leaf blowers into tiny pieces. Be careful when using paints and solvents. Don't burn wood (unless that's how you heat your house.)
Discuss! Show pictures! Complain! Make solutions!
From the tiny-silver-lining category, the smog can help make for nice sunsets.
Links and References
- 30th Bay Area Spare The Air Day This Season Issued For Saturday CBS San Francisco January 24, 2014
- Spare the Air website