Tracking air quality in the Salt Lake Valley

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Photo © Sebastian Hoch.

The air quality in the Salt Lake Valley this winter has been much worse than any winter in recent memory. The air quality problem arises when tiny particulates, called PM2.5, build up in stable air that is trapped in the valley by the surrounding mountains. When local residents call these episodes “inversions,” the impression is given that the problem is the weather, which cannot be controlled. In actuality, the problem is the pollutants that are emitted into the inversion – a problem that is more amenable to solution.

The weather aspects of the PM2.5 problem benefited from an extensive field research program conducted in the Salt Lake Valley in the winter of 2010-11. As part of the continuing analyses, the Mountain Meteorology Group of the university’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences has developed a new website to provide general information about the PM2.5 problem and to provide access to real-time PM2.5 and weather information. The website can be found here.

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