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SALT LAKE CITY – Air pollution along most of the Wasatch Front today is in the unhealthy range, especially for people with breathing issues. When we cannot see the mountains from the middle of the Salt Lake Valley, that’s one sign the pollution is getting thick. Extra moisture in the air adds fog to the mix, which makes it look even worse.
“It’s a pretty bad inversion,” said Thom Carter, executive director of UCAIR. “We’ve got a low lid. Everything is being trapped in here.”
The bad air intensified quickly this week. Right now, the exclusive KSL Air Quality Network shows deteriorating, unhealthy air along the Wasatch Front.
“The pollution builds as soon as the inversion sets up, and if you get storms that come through on a regular four- or five-day basis, then you don’t have long enough to build up to really high levels,” said Bo Call, air monitoring manager for the Utah Division of Air Quality.
It wasn’t long after the last storm moved out Saturday, that the inversion started to set up Sunday. Warm air aloft puts a lid on the valley, trapping particulate pollution in most of our neighborhoods. The pollution from combustion wafts around. But, typically the worst of it pools in the lowest parts of the valleys, and today the fog cuts visibility even more.
“Normally, we don’t see this kind of weather until Christmas or later. Seems a little bit early this year,” said Call. “The numbers have been climbing since Monday, basically, and, they continue to go up. This weekend, we expect a storm that should clear us out.”
We will experience more episodes like this during the next few months. So, UCAIR suggests we plan ahead to take action to reduce our emissions.
“There are no perfect answers,” said Carter. “But, there are practical solutions, and everybody, especially now, has to sit down and identify things they can try, things they can do that are practical solutions.”
Those solution can then become good habits.
“It’s really easy to find things they can try. One thing right now, is just be idle-free,” said Carter.
Switch off your car when you’re waiting to pick up kids at school, or in the drive-through at a restaurant or the bank.
If you leave the car on because you’re cold…
“Bring a heavy coat, or a hat, or have a blanket in your car,” said Carter. “Bundle up, leave your car off, and you don’t have wasted emissions.”
Some people can work from home. Others can carpool, and all of us can link our errands in one trip that helps eliminate the cold start. That first belch of pollution after your car has been cold is the worst discharge.
“You’re going to see about 50 to 60% of your emissions within the first 90 seconds. And that’s a lot,” said Call.
Once your car is warmed up, and the catalytic converter is working, it puts out much less pollution.
“Sit down with your family, your friends, your community. Make a plan, and be part of the solution,” said Carter.
Whatever emissions we add to the air during this inversion will be with us until the next storm blows it away, said Call. So, the decisions we make about driving our cars, impact the pollution around us.