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Utah air quality is continuing to get worse, says USU professor

Feb 4, 2023, 9:58 PM | Updated: Feb 9, 2023, 1:50 pm

SALT LAKE COUNTY — Unhealthy air is still affecting Utah and its residents, and the recent snow storms and other factors are not helping much.

According to Randy Martin, a Utah State University professor, there are several reasons why the air quality was terrible on Saturday.

“For the last several years, we’ve been fortunate that we’ve had relatively mild winters,” Martin explained while checking a reading station in the Salt Lake Valley.

He said while we all need the snow for the water it brings, its thick layers on the ground add to our air problems.

“It tightens our inversions. It makes the inversions much more likely to happen. Makes them stronger. Makes them longer-lasting. And so, we end up building more and more of the pollutants within those inversions,” Martin said.

Add the high pressure, leading to a buildup of immersion in the valleys.

“And then on top of that… the sun really pushes that photochemistry along that forms our pm2.5 here in northern Utah,” Martin explained.

Randy Martin working on a reading station in West Valley City. (KSL-TV's Mike Anderson) Randy Martin working on a reading station in West Valley City. (KSL-TV's Mike Anderson) Inversion in Salt Lake City on Saturday. (KSL-TV's Mike Anderson) Inversion in Salt Lake City on Saturday. (KSL-TV's Mike Anderson) Ozone and PM map of the US on Saturday. (AirNow)

But Martin blames more than what we’re dealing with thanks to the weather. We all share some responsibility.

“This is something that we’ve been wearily waiting to happen really and truly, you know. We know we’re making progress in our controls, but we also know that the population in northern Utah is growing. And when you get these stagnant conditions, this is what we can expect to see,” he expressed.

With more people and cars on the road, it’s not hard to see why conditions were ready for all that gunk to get trapped in the valleys.

“We are probably going to have to be asked to do more in the future, both with the pm2.5 and with summer ozone,” Martin said.

Because of that, Martin believes that Utah could find itself pushing the regulatory guidelines again if we don’t take action.

“I’m still optimistic that we’re heading in the right direction, but we’re going to have to do more, and all of us have to contribute to that,” he said.

On Friday, the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s website listed Utah as having the worst air in the state.

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