For the next three weeks, every particle counts in Northern Utah

Thursday , December 07, 2017 - 4:30 AM

BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner

Dirty air trapped beneath the inversion glows in the setting sun over North Ogden on Friday, Dec. 30, 2016.

STANDARD-EXAMINER EDITORIAL BOARD

Welcome to inversion season in Northern Utah.

Inversion season isn’t tied to a date on the calendar. It depends on atmospheric pressure, snowfall and cold temperatures. And this season is starting with a bang.

Here’s what the Utah Department of Environmental Quality tweeted about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday:

“Now for the bad news: We just got off the phone with @NWSSaltLakeCity, there isn't a significant front moving through N. Utah for the next three weeks. That means the inversion is sticking around. Park the cars and put out the fires. #ActNow4CleanAir”

As a result, the DEQ issued a mandatory ban on burning for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in Weber, Davis and Box Elder counties. It also urged Northern Utahns to cut down on particulate pollution by carpooling and consolidating trips.

Wait a minute. Wednesday was a bright, sunny day. No gray skies. No soupy clouds.

Why should I carpool? Why can’t I start a nice, roaring fire?

Because in an inversion, particulate pollution can’t dissipate; it’s trapped by the warm air above the valley.

Every time you drive or burn solid wood, you’re adding tiny particles to to air. The DEQ labels the current health risk moderate. If it continues to worsen, it starts to affect children, older adults and people with breathing issues.

That’s a real risk. Because if we’re stuck with this inversion for another three weeks, the air will only get worse — even if we’re careful.

We can’t call the National Weather Service and order a nice, gusty cold front this weekend. We can’t make it snow or rain. All we can do is take preventive measures.

Skip the fire tonight.

Use public transportation.

Turn off your engine if you’re stopped at a railroad crossing.

If you’re a manufacturer or big employer, revisit your workflow to cut down on travel and emissions.

For the next three weeks, every particle counts.