Experts hope incoming storms lead to improved air quality

Dec 14, 2021, 12:33 PM
Dust and rain in Salt Lake Valley, wind advisory...
High winds kick up dust along the Wasatch Front last April. Photo credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.

SALT LAKE CITY — Air quality and weather experts are cautiously optimistic that storms moving in Tuesday and Thursday will help keep inversion to a minimum along the Wasatch Front for the next few days.

Representatives from the Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality and National Weather Service Salt Lake City held a Q&A session on the subject Tuesday morning. 

Inversions are weird

Generally speaking, it’s hard to predict air quality. That’s even more true for places like the Wasatch Front where the natural terrain can lead to inversions at any time of the year. 

The reason winter is sometimes associated with worse inversion is that there is less daylight to warm up the air closer to the ground. 

Essentially, the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges act as the walls of a big pot with the valley at the bottom. Systems of high pressure sometimes hover above the pot to act as a lid, trapping everything inside. 

“So the cold air stays and also all the pollution that happens in the valleys stays,” said Monica Traphagan, general forecaster for the National Weather Service Salt Lake City. “That’s when you get issues with air quality.” 

She explained inversions typically happen in the morning. During the summer, there’s enough heat and daylight to mix out inversion throughout a given day. With less daylight and heat, winter inversion can become intense. 

Storms and air quality. The valley’s saving grace?

That’s where storms can be the valley’s saving grace for air quality. Traphagan said consistent precipitation can keep inversions to a minimum and mix pollution out of the air. 

“It’s not always a correlation but generally, if you have more storm systems, you have fewer issues with air quality,” she said. 

However, Traphagan was quick to point out more storms are not always the perfect fix. Depending on the existing climate circumstances, storms can have little or no effect on air quality, or even make it worse. 

In any case, the weather expert said the immediate forecast looks positive for a stretch of decent air quality that might even stretch through the holiday. 

“Looks like in the 8-to-14-day outlook that includes leading up to Christmas, it’s most likely that we’re going to continue with a pattern that is most likely to produce above-average precipitation. Looks like temperatures are most likely to be around average. So, that bodes well, at least in the next couple of weeks, for keeping the inversions at bay.”

Visit for the most current air quality conditions in Utah. The Division of Air Quality also has a free mobile app that shows current conditions. 

Today’s Top Stories


The National Weather Service of Salt Lake City says there is a red flag warning in effect for Weste...
Lindsay Aerts

Fourth of July weekend weather conditions ripe for fires

The National Weather Service of Salt Lake City says there is a red flag warning in effect for Western Utah. It warns that many fires are human caused.
2 days ago
Salt Lake County is working to make sure its golf courses don't use as much water in the drought....
Martha Harris

Salt Lake County says it has decreased water-use on its golf courses

Salt Lake County says it has back water usage on its golf courses. The county says it has done by changing how they water.
2 days ago
High water in the Gardiner River along the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park in Montana, ...
Curt Gresseth

Be ready for flash flooding: Expert shares advice

An expert with the Utah Division of Emergency Management shares his expertise and crucial tips on how to be ready for flash flooding when you are in a vehicle or at home.
5 days ago
Low water levels are plaguing the Great Salt Lake for several summers now....
Dan Bammes

Lake Powell is sitting low; this group is trying to raise the water levels

Lake Powell has been drying up for years. and one group wants its levels go up by 60 feet. But that's not how a 2017 drought plan had it mapped.
5 days ago
Multiple Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints buildings are featured in the photo. The churc...
Michele Rowe

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints looks for ways to reduce water usage across it’s properties

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement today about the steps they are taking to help with the drought.
11 days ago
power outage, dry weather affects power lines...
Devin Oldroyd

Strong winds cause power outages around Utah

Customers in Ogden, Layton, Bluffdale, and Draper all experienced power outages due to strong winds.
14 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Experts hope incoming storms lead to improved air quality