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Last Modified: March 1, 2023

What Is “Inversion” and Why Is Utah So Foggy?

Published on February 11, 2016 • Last updated March 1, 2023 by Ken Christensen
Topics: Being Safe in Utah (General Safety), Current Events

File:Salt Lake City smog haze skyline 01.jpg

What is Inversion?

Do you ever find it difficult to breathe on your winter morning run or see the road on your drive to work? It’s probably because Utah suffers from one of the worst cases of atmospheric inversion in the world.

Resulting from Utah’s combination of pollution and a mountainous climate, inversion traps bad air. The state got an “F” on its air quality report from the American Lung Association. The individual counties of Box Elder, Cache, Davis, Utah, and Weber even got their own “F” grade. Here are some facts and tips to keep you breathing on an “A” level:

What Makes Inversion Happen?

  • Simply put, inversion happens when certain atmospheric pressures and temperatures combine.
  • A warm layer of air covers and traps the colder air beneath it.
  • This results in the buildup of pollution, smoke, and harmful particles in the air.

Why is Utah’s Inversion So Bad?

  • The combination of factories, heavy traffic, cold temperatures, and mountainous climate makes for a textbook inversion recipe.

How Can Inversion Affect Me?

  • Side effects of inversion include:
    • nonfatal heart attacks
    • irregular heartbeat
    • aggravated asthma
    • decreased lung function
    • increased irritation of the airways
    • in extreme cases, premature death for those with heart or lung disease
  • The thick smog caused by inversion can result in limited visibility on the road.

What Can I Do?

  • Check current air conditions regularly.
  • If the air quality is particularly bad, stay inside. Buildings have air filters that minimize the effect of inversion.
  • Go hiking! The higher you get, the cleaner the air.
  • Be extremely cautious when driving in foggy conditions.
  • Cooperate with Utah’s “red” and “orange” days, on which residents are advised not to drive or burn wood.
  • Keep carbon emissions (like those from your car) to a minimum.
  • Carpooling and recycling are cliched but truly effective ways of combating pollution.

Photo copyright to Eltiempo10

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