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Field study of smoggy inversions to end
Date:2/2/2011

"We get pretty exhausted launching weather balloons and driving mobile weather stations at all hours of day and night, but it has been a great opportunity to test our understanding of what causes the development and breakup of pollutant-trapping inversions," says Erik Crosman, a graduate student in the University of Utah's Department of Atmospheric Sciences. "We've been collecting data around the clock during some of these episodes, which have lasted as long as 10 days."

Atmospheric sciences graduate student Neil Lareau adds: "We've had a great crew of staff, students, and volunteers out in the cold launching more than 150 weather balloons during the project." The balloons measured temperature, wind and moisture.

The effort has combined continuous automated monitoring of weather conditions around the Salt Lake Valley during the winter with intensive observing periods by students and volunteers who were deployed to capture critical data.

"Understanding the weather associated with these periods of unhealthy air requires breaking down the problem and focusing on specific physical processes underway," says the study's lead scientist, David Whiteman, a University of Utah research professor of atmospheric sciences.

"We are really fortunate to have had our research team define those processes before the data collection began on Dec. 1," he adds. The team has been paying particular attention to intrusions of clean air from over surrounding mountain ranges into the valley, as well as the pulsing of air into the valley from over the Great Salt Lake.

Crosman says the research team is examining the possibility that air over the large lake actually helps reinforce smoggy inversions instead of breaking them up.

Thanks to the field work, "we have a much better handle on just how complicated the formation and breakup of these inversions can be,"
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Contact: Lee Siegel
leesiegel@ucomm.utah.edu
801-581-8993
University of Utah
Source:Eurekalert  

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