OGDEN -- Air along the Wasatch Front nudged up into a murky yellow on the Division of Air Quality's scale Thursday, but even if the air clears over the weekend, this is only the beginning.
"There will probably be a lot more," said Bo Call, air monitoring section manager for the Division of Air Quality.
"The weather is looking like, what my weather guys tell me is, it's building up to be a split system like it was last winter," with storms going through Idaho and Arizona, but missing the Wasatch Front.
Which means more cold days, clear skies and, yes, smoggy inversions.
"That's not good for the skiing and not good for us either," Call said. "We're not being hit by storms on a regular basis that cleans the air out."
Winter inversions that hold air in the valleys is the annual scourge of the Wasatch Front. A mix of particulate matter and unburned hydrocarbons from cars, factories and generating plants builds up between storms. The more time between storms, the more the dirty air builds up.
Air pollution has a host of bad effects. The Utah-based Physicians for a Healthy Environment blames air pollution for increases in lung disease, heart attacks and even genetic damage in unborn children.
On the group's website, a summary of the issues around air pollution is titled "Air Pollution on the Wasatch Front is a public health crisis." The summary says between 1,000 and 2,000 Utahns die every year from pollution-related problems.
Call said Thursday's air pollution would likely exceed federal guidelines for allowable pollution levels sometime during the day, at least in the Salt Lake-Davis county area.
The problem with measuring pollution, he said, is that amounts vary by the hour and even by the area.
"We have an effect that happens in the valley here -- the air mass tends to slosh around, so we do see, because we have monitors scattered around, we can see the polluted air mass moves around."
As of noon Thursday, he said, the particulate matter level in Weber County was 17 micrograms per cubic meter, Tooele was 19 and Salt Lake-Davis was at 35.
The federal maximum allowable level is 35. The Division of Air Quality says anything above 35 micrograms is unhealthy for sensitive people, and even in lower levels, people should avoid activity outdoors and try to drive their cars less.
No storm to clear the air quickly is on the horizon. The National Weather Service is predicting slowly warming temperatures for the next seven days, with only a 20 to 30 percent chance of rain today through Sunday.
Temperatures will remain warm, reaching as high as 57 on Wednesday.