Civil War actor by night…five
minutes with Jim Haywood
By Carin Sodeman, Office of Environmental Assistance
you know that the DEQ has designated staff meteorologists? Neither did
I – until I had the recent pleasure of sitting down with our resident
air quality expert, Jim Haywood. In his southern accent, the
self-proclaimed southern boy was quick to credit his work partner,
fellow meteorologist, Stephanie Hengesbach, as he elaborated on a day in
the life of a Senior Meteorologist for the Air Quality Division...
than dodging blame for the weather, what does a typical work day look
like for a staff meteorologist?
requiring air quality forecasting, Stephanie and I spend the morning
reviewing the latest meteorological maps, computer forecasts, previous
day air quality monitor results, satellite information, etc. Later in
the morning, a conference call is made with the other Lake Michigan
bordering states to discuss the current regional air quality situation
and determine if any air quality advisories should be issued. From
there, a forecast for the state of Michigan is written up (sometimes in
rhyme, if I’m feeling inspired) and dispersed via email lists, U.S. EPA
data servers, and internet notification services. If an advisory is
issued, additional sources are notified in order to notify the public.
The remainder of the time is spent developing and analyzing computer
simulations of industrial air discharges into the atmosphere. Before
industries can receive air discharge permits, it must be demonstrated
that those discharges will not adversely affect human health or have
other unacceptable environmental consequences.
mentioned air quality forecasting…I understand it’s your job to
determine if an Air Quality Alert should be issued. What kind of
criteria must be met to issue such an alert?
Many factors determine the outcome of the forecast, including wind
direction, wind speed, and humidity, among other things. On poor air
quality days, the wind will be blowing from a direction rich with air
pollutants necessary to form ozone or fine particulates (i.e. SW wind
from Chicago). Higher wind speeds tend to dilute the atmosphere because
of turbulence. On calmer days, pollutants have a tendency to stagnate.
This is especially problematic in urban areas like Detroit. As far as
humidity, ozone and fine particulates tend to form faster in humid air.
To call an Air Quality Advisory, we need to believe that the level of
either ozone or fine particulates will be high enough to adversely
affect those who suffer from respiratory issues. We have different
levels of advisories, depending on how bad the air quality could
this summer compare so far to past summers as far as Air Quality Action
this week, we tied the old record of 20 Action Days in 1999 in West
Michigan. The overall record is 25 days in Detroit during the same
year. As the summer is a long way from being over, there is a good
chance of breaking both records.
Apparently, you are consulted by other states and consultants throughout
the nation. That’s impressive. So, who do YOU consult?
I have my
sources! Stephanie and I will collaborate on an air quality forecast if
it’s a tough decision. The discussion calls with the meteorologists
from other state agencies are invaluable. For predicting air quality
impacts from industrial discharges, I have excellent contacts in the
you like best about your job?
working with people. I spend a lot of time talking with consultants to
provide data they will need to conduct their own air quality modeling
for their clients prior to submitting an application. Plus, I enjoy the
meteorology associated with the job. That allows me to keep up with the
current weather situations.
is most challenging about your job?
regulations and politics. Politics, in particular, seem to be playing
more of a role in what we do. When politics take precedent over
science, facts, and engineering judgment, it makes our job very
would you be doing if you never got into this field?
question and I’m not sure because I enjoy what I do…maybe I would be a
teacher because I enjoy working with kids.
Jim Haywood at a glance:
Born and raised in
Mississippi, Jim travels south as often as he can to see family.
Since moving to Michigan, he’s lived in Grand Rapids and commutes to
Lansing for work. He has two sons, both of whom are currently
Jim is a history
buff whose passion finds him, musket in hand, reenacting civil war
battles on weekends, including several talks each year for school
groups and the Michigan Historical Library.
Jim serves as a Reserve Deputy Sheriff for the Kent
County Sheriff’s Department where he does a lot of special events
doing crowd and traffic control. He’s also able to do Road Patrol
as the second cop in the squad car, a rewarding experience that has
provided him with some good stories.
Like other colleagues, Jim enjoys home brewing when
the weather is not good enough to be outside.
With all his commuting, Jim goes through a lot of
audio books, the last of which he highly recommended, Unbroken.
When he’s not listening to audio books, there’s a
good chance he’s listening to modern country music.