What causes our temperature inversion?

Weather

UTAH (ABC4) – Winter inversion, we have all seen the hazy and smoggy air that hangs around our area at this time of year. The colder season here in Utah is well known for these kinds of events. 

But what causes it? 

“We have a layer of air, a warm layer of air that traps in our valley, makes a lid on things and all the cold air gets trapped beneath it,” says Bo Call a Monitoring Manager for Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality. 

Hence the name, temperature inversion. 

This type of setup is normally seen during stretches of calm weather under stable air masses. Similar to what we have been seeing the past few days. 

Given the little movement of air during these events, our pollutants continue to build up and create that gross and terrible air that we can see. 

But there are other factors that can make it much worse. 

“A lot of it depends on how tight the inversion is or how low it is. The lower it is the less volume air mass there is and the tighter it is and the less stuff is getting out. And of course, the longer it persists then the more that pollution is concentrating in there,” explains Call. 

This is why we have seen our air quality drop around the Wasatch Front. 

Another factor is snow in the valleys. This causes temperature inversions to increase in frequency and intensity due to their high reflectance of light, causing the temperature to be much cooler. 

These poor air quality days can cause issues for many with respiratory problems, so if you want to know what kind of levels the pollutants are at, DEQ has an app. You can download it here. You can also stay ahead of the poor air quality with Utah’s Most Accurate Forecast on-air and online. 

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