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Expect worsening air quality through midweek as inversion sets up

Dec 20, 2021, 7:25 AM | Updated: Dec 21, 2021, 8:58 am
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FILE: A temperature inversion traps and fills Utah valley with thick smog as seen from Traverse Mountain on January 31, 2017 in Alpine, Utah. Severe inversions have plagued Utah's large cities for many years.(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — Air quality along the Wasatch Front registered at unhealthy levels for all groups in many places Monday morning, days before the next winter storm should arrive to disrupt the inversion pattern. 

The KSL Air Quality Network showed a number of monitoring stations in the “red,” meaning an air quality index of over 150, considered unhealthy for all groups. 

Listen live: Click here to listen to the latest on Utah’s Morning News, or watch the live stream below. 

KSL TV Meteorologist Kristen Van Dyke says in northern Utah, a temperature inversion sets up in winter months as cold air sinks, trapping pollution underneath warm air above. 

“Basically, day after day that we have this inversion in place, the air quality gets worse because more and more particulate matter gets trapped on the valley floor — and it’s keeping us colder, too,” she said. 

KSL Air Quality Network shows “red” conditions across the region

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the air quality index, or AQI, measures air pollution levels on a scale from 0 to 500. An AQI under 50, represented by “green” on the map, would be considered good air quality; between 51 and 100, represented by yellow on the map, conditions fall into the moderate category. Between 101 and 150, represented in orange on the map, sensitive groups should take precautions to protect themselves from unhealthy air. And a “red” AQI of over 151, is considered unhealthy for all groups. 

Monday morning, much of Salt Lake County appeared as red dots on the KSL map. Van Dyke advised anyone who can head for higher elevation to do so. 

“[It’s a] very good week to go skiing,” Van Dyke said. “You get above that inversion layer, we have some fresh snow from last week. It’s looking a lot better up there than down here.” 

Pollution levels should improve later in the week with the arrival of a new winter storm. Rain should start falling Thursday in Salt Lake City, switching over to snow by the morning of Christmas Eve. Van Dyke forecasts the area will observe a “white” Christmas. 


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Expect worsening air quality through midweek as inversion sets up