It’s that time of the year, inversion season. Area residents are accustomed to seeing one or two periods of inversion during the winter months. Blame it on our geography, our weather and that fact that people live here. The Salt Lake valley is surrounded on all sides by mountains. The right meteorological condition – cold temperatures, no breezes – cause the cold air to become trapped. Because the air isn’t moving, the pollution also has nowhere to go and it begins to build up. It is held in place beneath a layer of warm air. The condition is called an inversion because it is the reverse of a normal air pattern (i.e. – cooler air above, warmer air below). An inversion will linger until wind or a storm front comes through. The “typical” period is from a few days to a week, although there have occasionally been inversions which have lasted two to three weeks.
How is Air Quality Measured?
The United States EPA has established National Ambient Air Quality Standard for each of the following pollutants. By combining the totals of the measured pollutants an air quality index has been created (see 1st chart below).
How to Check for Air Conditions:
The Utah Division of Air Quality has developed a new app called “Utah Air” that can be downloaded on Apple or Android devices. The app consists of action alerts, represented by three basic symbols that signify the voluntary or mandatory actions the public needs to adhere to the current pollution levels, and health guidance, based on the EPA’s Air Quality Index (AQI) that helps determine how the highest pollution level of the day will affect people with various health conditions.
This app is fantastic and will update you on the best times to exercise outdoors or even when to make trips for errands based on current conditions and trends. The app will also provide a three day forecast to help you plan ahead.
You can also check these links below for air quality conditions:
What if I really need to get outside and exercise?
- Realize that every “body” is different. You need to pay attention to how you feel on certain days outside and correlate that with the actual air color of the day (see 2nd chart below). This will allow you to make quick decisions and make alternate plans. When air quality reaches red level it will affect everyone, regardless of fitness and health status, and is not worth the extra health risks. Alternate solutions should be found.
- Plan other options if the air color is not suited for you i.e., running on a treadmill, running inside at the Utah Oval, heading for higher elevations like Jeremy Ranch Road, Rail Trail in Park City, Pipeline Trail in Millcreek Canyon.
- Learn what you can do to help reduce pollutants this winter.
Advanced Pollution Chart
Simplified Pollution Chart