SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – “What’s that weird haze covering the mountains?”
It’s a question many long-time Utahns may hear often and roll their eyes at.
But Utahns are all too familiar with that thick, pesky cloud known as “inversion.”
Inversion, as defined by the National Weather Service, is a layer in the atmosphere in which air temperature increases with height.
This is particularly evident during the winter months which are classified as Utah’s inversion season.
Here are the primary causes of inversion according to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
- Calm winds reduce the natural mixing of cold and warm air.
- Clear skies increase the rate of cooling of the air close to the ground.
- Long nights allow the cooling of the ground to continue over a longer period of time, resulting in a greater decrease in temperature near the surface.
- The sun is lower on the horizon during the winter, so it supplies less warmth to the earth’s surface and more to the atmosphere.
And seeing how the Wasatch Mountains, Oquirrh Mountains, and Traverse Mountain cradle Salt Lake into a valley, there is nowhere for pollutants from vehicles and industrial output to escape.
This creates poor air quality and ultimately health concerns for Utahns.
But it’s not all doom and gloom — something is being done about this ever-growing problem.
The DEQ says Utah state officials are continuously updating their efforts to reduce pollution and ultimately improve inversion:
- Funding to fix or replace dirty diesel engines and vehicles failing emission inspections, and replacing wood stoves and fireplaces with natural gas heating systems.
- Funding for local government agencies to create electric vehicle infrastructure.
- Education, outreach, monitoring, and enforcement through the Division of Air Quality’s compliance program that has helped major source permit holders (sources that have the potential to emit at least 100 tons per year of pollutants) achieve a 94% compliance rate.