SALT LAKE CITY, Feb. 2, 2011 During the past two months, researchers launched weather balloons, drove instrument-laden cars and flew a glider to study winter inversions that often choke Salt Lake City in smog and trap dirty air in other urban basins worldwide.
The field campaign part of a three-year study by the University of Utah and other institutions ends Monday, Feb. 7 as atmospheric scientists begin analyzing data they collected to learn how weather conditions contribute to inversions, which occur when warmer air aloft holds cold air near the ground, trapping pollutants.
"Our study applies to urban basins around the world, any location with a lot of people and mountains nearby," says John Horel, a University of Utah professor of atmospheric sciences and one of the principal investigators for the study.
"Los Angeles, Phoenix, Tehran and Mexico City experience these winter inversions and cold-air pools. Unfortunately, one of the advantages of studying them in Salt Lake City is just how frequently they occur here."
Salt Lake City residents already have experienced more than 20 days with air pollution levels exceeding federal standards this winter, and on some smoggy days, the city has the nation's dirtiest air.
Some 50 researchers and volunteers from the University of Utah and other institutions are wrapping up the two-month monitoring program to better understand the winter weather conditions frequently associated with inversions known as cold-air pools by meteorologists and the resulting poor air quality.
The National Science Foundation funded the $1.3 million study. Of that, $550,000 goes to the University of Utah, another $550,000 to the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and $250,000 to Michigan State University.
Studying Inversions Around the Clock in the Cold
|Contact: Lee Siegel|
University of Utah