Arizona Air Quality Information

2022 Phoenix Air Quality Year In Review


2022 has come to a close, encapsulating another year of interesting weather and air quality. Usually, New Year's celebrations are what kick off the new year. However, rainfall decided to start Phoenix's 2022, helping Phoenix to avoid its usual New Year's exceedance in PM2.5!

What was an interesting start to 2022 was followed by a 5-month period of very low precipitation totals (See image above: Source NWS Phoenix). January through May recorded only around half an inch of rain, with April and May recording zero inches of rain in the Valley. This dry period led to some issues with air quality in Phoenix, with PM10 exceeding 3 times in the spring due to stronger surface winds and loose soils.

Moving into the summer, ozone becomes an area of concern in the realm of air quality as high pressure begins to build and longer durations of sunlight reach the surface. 2022 saw an above average year in ozone exceedances in recent years; from April to September Phoenix ozone exceeded a total of 53 times. Wildfire smoke from the Pacific Northwest likely affected ozone concentrations in early August, with ozone exceeding 11 times out of the first 18 days of the month. The highest exceedance day was August 23rd, reaching the Unhealthy Air Quality Index (AQI), and was embedded within a 5-day streak of consecutive ozone exceedance days.

On the other hand, an active monsoon season helped in limiting the occurrence of strong dust storms. June, August, and September were near average or above average for precipitation in Phoenix. June 2022 was the 8th wettest June in recorded history for Phoenix! (See image below: Source NWS Phoenix)

Typically after the monsoon season, weather and air quality-wise, things calm down throughout the fall. Here, PM10 made its last few exceedances in Phoenix, with a midnight dust storm between September 1st and 2nd (causing both days to exceed), and a dust storm on October 3rd causing PM10 to reach into the Unhealthy AQI.

The most anticipated two-week stretch in air quality arrives during the holiday season. Climatologically, conditions at the surface in the winter are generally calm and stagnant with light winds. In association with stronger morning inversions, PM2.5 became the main area of concern at the end of the year, and it did not go quiet into the night. A record-breaking Christmas and New Year's weekend rounded off 2022.

For the first time, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day... and New Year's Eve and New Year's Day reached the Unhealthy AQI for PM2.5 in Phoenix. Christmas Day 2022 was also the highest Christmas Day in PM2.5 concentration on record!

Click here to learn more about the Christmas Day exceedance

A total of 68 exceedance days for PM10, PM2.5, and ozone were counted in 2022 for Phoenix, the highest number of yearly exceedance days since 2018. 2022 brought many reasons to stay up to date with the latest air quality information, and we look forward to bringing you more insight and more air quality forecasts for the 2023 year!