Scientists say warming climate could reduce inversions

Jan 26, 2022, 12:06 PM | Updated: 12:07 pm

An inversion sits over the Salt Lake Valley....

Inversion over the Salt Lake Valley. (Kate Davis / KSL NewsRadio)

(Kate Davis / KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY– Winter is known for temperature inversion in Utah, but researchers at the Utah Climate Center say climate change may make them less frequent in the future.

Jon Meyer is climate researcher with the Utah Climate Center at Utah State University. Meyer said the individual ingredients that cause inversions may be affected by climate change and reduce the frequency of inversions. 

How do inversions happen?

Normally, air temperatures rise with the altitude. However, in winter this pattern can “invert,” meaning cooler air is trapped in valleys beneath a lid of warmer, calm air, thereby affecting a temperature inversion.

Read more: Air quality is unhealthy. What causes Utah’s weather inversions?

As the climate warms, researchers said snowfall and high pressure systems may be affected. The snow cover season is becoming shorter and more discontinuous throughout the winter time, said Meyer. Therefore, the weather conditions that would create conditions for a temperature inversion would be less common.

Read more: As winter inversion worsens, measures are encouraged to reduce the haze

Climate change to reduce inversions, make air pollution worse

The Utah Climate Center said although climate change could reduce inversions in Utah, air pollution will still be a problem, and likely get worse in Utah.

Meyer noted the drying of the Great Salt Lake as a concern for air pollution. He explained the lake bed contains certain pollutants like heavy metals. As more of it is exposed, summer winds can pick up those pollutants and mix them with the pollution created by cars. 

Read more: Bill aimed to ‘save’ Great Salt Lake to be introduced this legislative session

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Scientists say warming climate could reduce inversions