SALT LAKE CITY, Feb. 2, 2010 At times this winter, the greater Salt Lake City area has harbored the most polluted air in the United States. Now, researchers from the University of Utah and other institutions are starting a three-year, $1.3 million study to better understand the winter weather "inversion" conditions frequently associated with poor air quality.
It will be the largest field study of atmospheric conditions in Utah in a decade, says John Horel, a University of Utah atmospheric sciences professor and one of three co-principal investigators for the project.
Funding for the study gained final approval from the National Science Foundation just as Salt Lake and other cities at the base of the Wasatch Range have endured repeated, pollutant-trapping inversions or "cold-air pools," giving the region the nation's worst air quality on some recent days, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
"We suffered from poor air quality for the latter part of December and most of January," Horel says. "This study is going to identify the weather that contributes to the development, maintenance and breakup of these inversions."
"Residents are all too familiar with the cold-air pools that often persist for days in the Salt Lake Valley during winter," says David Whiteman, lead scientist and co-principal investigator for the new study, and a research professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Utah.
"A good snow storm followed by clear skies sets up the event," he adds. "That leads to cold temperatures persisting near the surface while temperatures aloft become much warmer. Normally, air temperatures in the afternoon decrease with height away from the surface, and that allows pollutants to be mixed vertically and carried over the mountains away from the Wasatch Front. But, when one of these cold-air pools sets up, po
|Contact: Lee Siegel|
University of Utah