Update, Dec. 25 The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has issued a Spare the Air alert for Monday, Dec. 26.

Original story, Dec. 22 If we have a white Christmas in Berkeley this year, it’ll most likely be due to haze and not snow.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District today issued its 13th “Spare the Air” alert of 2022 due to high pollution. The alert will remain in place through Sunday, Christmas Day, meaning wood burning is prohibited.

The Coast and Central Bay zone, which encompasses Berkeley, is forecast to exceed 100 on the AQI scale today through Sunday, meaning the air is unhealthy for sensitive groups. The BAAQMD recommends that “active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease such as asthma” limit outdoor exertion. 

The latest air quality update from the BAAQMD shows an AQI of 105 at its monitoring station at Laney College in Oakland. (The air quality district’s only monitoring station in Berkeley at Aquatic Park was vandalized in October 2021 and has been offline since.)

This Spare the Air alert is being issued because of a buildup of fine particle pollution, or PM 2.5, in the Bay Area. The combination of smoke from fireplaces and stagnant days causes this buildup, said spokesperson Aaron Richardson in an email Sunday. (Dec. 19 and 20 were also Spare the Air days.)

Most of the Spare the Air alerts issued by the BAAQMD this year have been due to ozone pollution, or smog, and attributed to the combination of hot days, wildfire smoke and automobile exhaust. 

In 2021, the Bay Area saw 16 Spare the Air days, five of which were attributed to PM 2.5; in 2020, it had 52 total days, 46 of which were attributed to PM 2.5, thanks to a severe wildfire season.

Iris Kwok covers the environment for Berkeleyside through a partnership with Report for America. A former music journalist, her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, KQED, San Francisco Examiner...