Haze continues to lurk above the valley

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The two-day storm brought not only snow, but also much cleaner air. So why is there a yellow air alert for Salt Lake and Davis counties?

Donna Spangler, spokeswoman for Department of Air Quality, says, "I think the storms have sort of helped lessen the high pollution levels we've been experiencing."

The storm didn't completely clear out all the smog. There's a thin layer of haze lurking above the valley floor.

"We're at a yellow air action alert, which means that the pollution is moderate," explains Spangler.

The air looks much better than before. Last week a thick, gray layer of pollution blanketed the valley. Going from a red air day to yellow alert does not seem like much of an improvement.

Haze continues to lurk above the valley

Bo Call is in charge of all the air monitoring centers. He says, "It does take a while for the pollution levels to drop down, even if it looks pretty clear."

An inversion occurs when a warm layer of air above the ground traps the colder denser air below. The warm above prevents pollution from mixing out and it doesn't dissipate until the high pressure weakens or moves. -*KSL Weather*
The centers measure pollutants in the air in real time. The level of air quality is based on averages. Call explains, "We're working on a 24-hour standards, so what we look at is what the air is for 24 hours."

The 24-hour period is from midnight to midnight. That means the levels measured Wednesday are used to predict Thursday's air quality. "It may just have a little bit delayed effect," Call says.

The weather plays a role too. KSL 5 meteorologist Grant Weyman explains Wednesday's storm drastically improved the air. He says, "Most cities along the Wasatch Front, the air quality is either good or slightly moderate. It's not quite as good in some of the lower areas around the lake."

He says using averages does not paint an up-to-date picture of the air quality.

"Bottom line is the storm helped out a lot," he says. "We can breathe. I'd say it be fine to burn wood in the fire place again, take the jog. Those were issues a couple of days ago, to go exercise, would not be issues today."

To completely clear out the smog in the valley, we would need a storm with a punch -- some wind.

E-Mail: aforester@ksl.com

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