It’s been a little easier to breathe Utah air this year, data shows

Sep 1, 2023, 2:00 PM

SALT LAKE CITY--- This year, Utah's having less days where air quality is forecasted to push levels...

FILE: Smog blankets the Salt Lake Valley during an inversion, as seen from Little Cottonwood Canyon on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox wants to add a magnesium refinery to a list of heavy polluters. (Kristin Murphy /Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy /Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY– This year, Utah’s having less days outside of the healthy or “green” range on the Air Quality Index

According to data from the Utah Division of Air Quality, Salt Lake County has had a combined 97 days, between those that push the yellow or moderate level and those that can get into the red or “unhealthy” level.

For comparison, this is seven days less than 2022, and 37 days less than 2021 where the Wasatch Range was barely visible due to wildfire smoke from California.

The UDAQ breaks down what one may consider “bad air days” by voluntary or mandatory action days.

UDAQ Spokesperson Matt McPherson said on voluntary action days, state workers are encouraged to telework, carpool or take other actions to combat forecasted bad air.  Days forecasted to reach a yellow or moderate in the AQI score are Voluntary days.

Mandatory days are those where state workers are required to work from home to combat bad air. These are the days AQI is forecasted to reach between the orange (unhealthy for sensitive groups) and red (unhealthy) ranges.

In 2023, Salt Lake County has had 42 voluntary and 55 mandatory action days. Last year, in 2022, it was 55 voluntary and 49 mandatory days. In 2021, one of the worst recent air quality years, had 72 voluntary and 62 mandatory action days.

By the numbers, 2023 has been the best air quality year since 2019.

Action day numbers have varied, but are very similar between Salt Lake, Utah, Davis and Weber Counties. Tooele has had 60 voluntary and only four mandatory action days in 2023.

Why is this year going well?

Bo Call, Manager of the Air Monitoring Section, told KSL Newsradio, he thinks one major reason why this year has been easier on the lungs is because of the reduced number of wildfires.

“Wildfire smoke… can tend to exacerbate the ozone,” Call said. “Not having that… we’ve been able to breathe a little bit easier.”

Call also said he thinks the extended spring runoff from the past record snowpack helped calm down wildfire risk and subsequently bad air quality.

As summer fades and cold damp temperatures approach, Call said we can expect worse air quality.

“When we get snow on the ground, and cold temperatures and that inversion. Then that is what triggers the greatest amount of particulate creation,” he said. “Then it kind of sticks with you for a while.”

He said there’s no telling if Utah will see extended periods of inversion at this point, but that the storms making their way across the state throughout the summer have helped. 

Avoid pollution at its worst

If you are sensitive to poor air quality, Call said it’s best to stay inside when it gets bad. Especially in the afternoon. 

“The highest times that you’re going to see ozone during the summer is going to be in the afternoon to late afternoon.”

He also thinks taking action on bad air days helps.

“If someone chooses to not drive… to carpool or stay home… then that’s just that much less pollution that’s getting into our atmosphere,” Call said.

Because at the end of the day, it’s a lot easier to prevent pollution if you don’t generate it in the first place. 

“Anything we can do to lower the amount that our cars emit, or houses emit, or that we choose to emit through our processes, or our actions is helpful,” Call said. 

If you want to keep up with the air quality in Utah, Call said you can download the UtahAir app on your phone.

Clayre Scott contributed.

Related: Utah cities among worst for air quality in the country…but there’s some good news


We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


A freeze warning is in effect for several areas of Northern Utah tonight as temperatures are expect...

Allessandra Harris

Freeze watch upgraded to a warning for Northern Utah

NORTHERN UTAH— A freeze warning is in effect for several areas of Northern Utah tonight as temperatures are expected to drop below freezing. Areas to be affected by the freeze include the Wasatch Back and Bear River Valley. The National Weather Service reports temperatures may drop as low as 25 degrees in the Bear River […]

3 days ago

Snow falls by the John Paul Lodge at Snowbasin Resort in Huntsville on Thursday. Rain, snow and muc...

Carter Williams,

Snow returns to mountains, as fall-like temperatures reach Utah ahead of official season

The cooldown is also bringing more mountain snow after another storm provided the first brushing of the season earlier this month.

3 days ago

Image of a snowman, created at Snowbird Ski Resort when the snow fell on Labor Day in 2023. The Nat...

Alexandrea Bonilla and Simone Seikaly

Ready for snow this weekend, northern Utah?

Snow is possible this weekend in northern Utah, namely in the Kings Peak and upper Cottonwood Canyons areas.

5 days ago

A man skateboards with an umbrella as it rains in Salt Lake City on Aug. 22. Utah water officials s...

Carter Williams,

How impactful have this year’s monsoons been for Utah’s water supply?

All parts of Utah were listed as being in at least moderate drought this time last year, including more than 95% in severe drought or worse.

10 days ago

ATLANTA (AP) — Hurricane Lee is rewriting old rules of meteorology, leaving experts astonished ...

JEFF MARTIN Associated Press

Hurricane Lee is charting a new course in weather and could signal more monster storms

Experts say Lee, which dropped to a Category 3 and held that strength Saturday, could also be a harbinger as ocean temperatures climb.

16 days ago

Image of Joel Ferry, director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, who said it is important...

Lindsay Aerts

Utah water official warns Utahns to stay vigilant on water use

Utah has inched its way out of extreme drought but an expert says now is not the time for complacency on water use.

17 days ago

Sponsored Articles

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Human hand holding a protest banner stop vaping message over a crowded street background....

Prosperous Utah Communities

Utah’s Battle to Protect Youth from Vaping Epidemic Faces New Threat as Proposed Rule Threatens Progress

Utah's strict standards of nicotine levels in vaping products are at risk, increasing health hazards associated with use. Read more about how you can advocate for a better future for Utah's youth.

Aerial photo of Bear Lake shoreline with canopies and people camped out on the beach...

Visit Bear Lake

Last-Minute Summer Vacation Planning? Check Out Bear Lake!

Bear Lake is the perfect getaway if you are last-minute summer vacation planning. Enjoy activities with your whole family at this iconic lake.

close up of rose marvel saliva blooms in purple...

Shannon Cavalero

Drought Tolerant Perennials for Utah

The best drought tolerant plants for Utah can handle high elevations, alkaline soils, excessive exposure to wind, and use of secondary water.

It’s been a little easier to breathe Utah air this year, data shows