In Salt Lake City each winter, the “inversion season” happens, where for weeks at a time between storms, the air turns brown with smog. The normally beautiful views and landscapes become hidden by fog and haze, and the mountains only a few miles away cannot be seen. I have always wondered why this is a common occurrence here in Salt Lake City but not in other major cities, and whether we can do anything to improve the problem.

According to, in the Salt Lake City region, “weather and geography combine to set a trap for bad air.” In winter, the mountains trap pollution-filled cold air. In addition, when there is high pressure, a “lid” of warm air forms on top of the dirty, cold air, keeping the pollution in the valleys. It only goes away when a low-pressure storm system moves in, removing the lid and blowing away the emissions.

According to, the main cause of pollution is PM 2.5, or fine particulates (particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter). Industrial processes contribute about 11% of the wintertime PM2.5, but a majority of our pollution comes from cars and wood burning. This means the two best ways to reduce pollution are to reduce driving and wood burning during inversions.


  1. Ethan 3 years ago

    Thomas, I liked your article. You stated important facts and listed some great sources. Next time maybe add personal experiences with this issue. Great job, keep up the great work.

  2. Andrea 3 years ago

    Thomas, when you mentioned Utah’s geography being a bowl shape causing the bad air to stay was very interesting. In the future, maybe elaborate on how we can reduce this and go into the science behind the inversions. Last year I went to a clean air rally at the capital and it was cool to speak out for something that was important to me. I know there will be on in 2018 and if it interests you, look into it! Here is a website that I enjoyed when I was looking into our poor air quality Looking forward to hearing back from you.

  3. Joseph 3 years ago

    Hi Thomas,

    I liked your informative article about the inversions in Utah. I found it interesting that this only occurred in the Salt Lake City area and not in other places. I am interested to hear your research about the topic with reliable resources. I wished you elaborated some more on your topic. Otherwise, nice work!

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