Inversions and Air Pollution
Winter has never been known for its affable weather—freezing rain, slush, snow, and blizzards are not exactly pleasant. Some people also have to deal with a less-common but equally ornery winter side effect: inversions and poor air quality.
Inversions occur when cold, foggy, wintry air is trapped beneath warm air, most commonly in mountain valleys (like this one in the Grand Canyon- http://bit.ly/1AtIXEQ). The warm air in conjunction with a high-pressure weather system keeps the cool air still, stagnant and in place.
Although inversions for the most part are just bleak and unpleasant—frigid air and cloud cover make for some gloomy days—in some places inversions have trapped more than just cold air, they’ve also trapped pollution. Salt Lake City, Utah, a city famous for its winter sports, is one place that is particularly afflicted with smoggy inversions for days on end. Since the cold air can’t escape, neither can any air pollution. This often puts the air quality at dangerous levels, especially for children, pregnant women, or those with respiratory problems.
Many officials have taken efforts to stanch the smog and make the city safer for its residents. But for those seeking a short-term solution? Head to the ski resorts. During inversion days, the tops of the mountains are actually warmer and have better air than the valley. Sounds like a good excuse to me.
Photo Credit: Scott G. Winterton/Deseret News http://nyti.ms/18CQLP6