Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hot and Smoky

Temperatures at the Salt Lake City Airport have reached the triple digits (100ºF as of 2 PM) and smoke has settled in over northern Utah.  The view of the Salt Lake Valley from Snowbird is not as disturbing as it is during wintertime inversions, but it isn't pristine either.

Source: Snowbird
The National Weather Service produced a nice graphic yesterday showing some of the primary smoke sources.  Yup, welcome to fire season in the western U.S.

Source: NWS
The Salt Lake Tribune reports that there's a fire on Mt. Olympus too, although I suspect that it isn't a major source of smoke for the valley (at least not yet).

Smoke has a very measurable impact on air quality and contributes to both an increase in particulate matter and ozone (click here for more discussion).

Trend charts from the Utah Division of Air Quality show a gradual increase in PM2.5 over the past two days.  In addition, yesterday's ozone was the highest in several days and thus far today we are running a bit higher.

Source: Utah Division of Air Quality
Some of the trend in ozone could be related to the increase in daily mean temperature, but I suspect the big jump that occurred from July 8 to July 9 was partly related to the advection of smoke into the valley.  Others with a better understanding of photochemistry can perhaps comment and provide their perspectives.  

On a related subject, The Guardian reported yesterday on two studies showing an increased risk of lung cancer and heart-failure related to particulate matter exposure.  One of the study's authors comments that "even modest reductions in air pollution could have major cadiovascular health benefits and substantial healthcare cost savings." 

Press reports are sometimes lacking, so perhaps others with expertise in these areas can comment on the veracity of the article and the significance of the findings.  

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