Air Quality Summit puts focus on Utah air pollution and solutions

Mar 28, 2024, 7:28 PM | Updated: Mar 29, 2024, 7:06 am

OGDEN — Many of the researchers who study Utah’s air pollution problems are sharing what they’ve found while working to find solutions during Thursday’s Air Quality Summit.

The researchers do this each year to review what everyone has learned about the pollution problems Utahns face and the solutions we should pursue.

Doctor Derek Mallia, a research assistant professor at the University of Utah’s Department of Atmospheric Science, presented what he’s learned about wildfire smoke and Utahns’ growing tendency toward mega-fire seasons, as we saw in 2020.

“In the future, that could be the new norm. And so what we want to do is kind of get a sense of how do those wildfires impact ozone across the western U.S.?” Mallia said.

He said the overwhelming evidence shows wildfire emissions can further elevate ozone levels.

“And we are seeing (is) more elevated levels indoors during wildfire smoke events than we did compared to inversions or even dust events,” Mallia said.

Tristalee Mangin, a doctorate student at the University of Utah, is examining how much of the bad air follows us inside.

“What we’ve found so far with these pollution events, when the bad when you know, when the outdoor air is bad, really the main one of concern is wildfire smoke,” Mangin said.

She said, in part, it’s because of the smaller particulates in smoke. Granted, not all of it makes it through your typical HVAC systems, and we can fight back with air cleaners, otherwise known as air purifiers.

Mallia is part of a group at the University of Utah that is working to come up with a model to forecast wildfire smoke in the future.

“The smoke that those wildfires produce is very much a severe weather hazard,” Mallia said.

Many of the researchers are also gearing up for a major study of Utah ozone this summer when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will help take a look at how it forms out here and how wide the pollution issues spread.

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Air Quality Summit puts focus on Utah air pollution and solutions