Feb 16, 2024 - News

Arkansas to have some of the best air quality in the country in 2024

Estimated days with unhealthy air quality, 2024
Data: First Street Foundation; Note: Maximum count of days with unhealthy air quality from anywhere within each county; Map: Axios Visuals


Arkansans may see far less deterioration of air quality in 2024 than many other states, per a new report.

Why it matters: After decades of progress in the U.S. toward cleaner air, climate change-related events are expected to cause a steady deterioration through 2054.

An increase in large wildfires in the West, along with heat waves and drought, are yielding a growing "climate penalty" to air quality, Axios' Andrew Freeman reports.

Estimated days with unhealthy air quality, 2024
Data: First Street Foundation; Note: Maximum count of days with unhealthy air quality from anywhere within each county; Map: Axios Visuals

Zoom in: But the effects of this penalty aren't evenly distributed.

  • Arkansas compares favorably to surrounding states and the rest of the country.
  • No days of unhealthy air quality are expected for 2024 in 33 of the state's 75 counties, according to data analyzed by Axios.
  • Only Lawrence County in northeast Arkansas is expected to see any bad days — and then only three.

State of play: The research, from the nonprofit First Street Foundation, is part of a hyperlocal air-quality model showing shifts down to the property level from 2024 to 2054.

  • Its conclusions flow from methods contained in three peer-reviewed studies published by the coauthors; however, the report itself is not peer reviewed.
  • The study finds climate change is increasing the prevalence of two air pollutants that are particularly harmful to humans: particulate matter (or PM2.5) and tropospheric ozone.
  • PM2.5 consists of tiny particles emitted by vehicles, power plants, wildfires and other sources. They can lodge in people's lungs and enter the bloodstream, causing or exacerbating numerous health problems.

What they found: Through air-quality observations and development of the new model, First Street's researchers predict that, within the U.S., the West will be particularly hard hit by increasing amounts of PM2.5 emissions, as wildfires become more frequent and severe.

Threat level: The U.S. population exposed to "dangerous" days on the air-quality index is likely to grow to 11.2 million by 2054 — about 13% above its present level.

What's next: The new air-quality model's findings have been translated into risk levels — or "air factor" — for individual properties in the U.S.

  • The ratings will be available on major real estate listing sites.

Go deeper: See an interactive map of Arkansas … read the full story

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