Environmental Stewardship...Economic Development...Customer Service

From the Summer 2012 Issue                                                    The DEQbicle

Meteorologist by day, Civil War actor by night…five minutes with Jim Haywood
By Carin Sodeman, Office of Environmental Assistance

Did 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...

Other than dodging blame for the weather, what does a typical work day look like for a staff meteorologist?
For days 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.   

You 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 become. 

How does this summer compare so far to past summers as far as Air Quality Action Days?
As of 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 U.S. EPA.

What do you like best about your job?
I enjoy 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. 

 What is most challenging about your job?
Excess 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 difficult.

What would you be doing if you never got into this field?
Tough question and I’m not sure because I enjoy what I do…maybe I would be a teacher because I enjoy working with kids.


Also in this issue

Director's message


RD CSI update

Belding success story

ICC Mining Team

Upcoming events

Environmental Assistance Center
(EAC) update

Leadership Academy

OEA online training

HR quarterly update

Administration Division news

Legislative Corner

Tech Tips



  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 attending college.

  •  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.

Back to the DEQbicle