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  1. #1
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    Inversions - how many, how bad?

    I probably should have researched this better before we moved here, but I had to wear a respirator today to ride to the grocery store without coughing so now I'm curious. How many days in winter have PM2.5s over 50ish in the SLC area, in general?

    Honestly if it's like this for much of the winter, we will just leave. Life is way too short to be breathing 2 weeks worth of leftover exhaust all day.

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  2. #2
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    Go to the mountains and baam your out of it! Depends on the year but we always get at least a minimum of a week of inversion. I would rather an inversion for a week then miss out on all the great outdoors you eg year around.

  3. #3
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    I like how on bad air days we are not supposed to drive. Shouldn't it be that on bad air days they should be telling us we also shouldn't have driven yesterday and shouldn't drive tomorrow?

    Welp, I did my part to stop the smog, I combined errands on a red day.

  4. #4
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    It does vary from year to year. I don't remember much of an inversion last year. 2009 was bad for about 2 weeks, and in 2007, the entire month of January was smoggy and below freezing in SLC. In February, the wind usually starts to pick up, which clears out the inversions. Occasionally, we'll get a bad inversion in the hottest months of summer, with a nasty layer of ozone and smog trapped in the valleys. Welcome to Utah.

    Keep checking the Division of Air Quality web site if you're sensitive to the particulates: Utah DEQ: DAQ: Current Conditions
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walt View Post
    I probably should have researched this better before we moved here, but I had to wear a respirator today to ride to the grocery store without coughing so now I'm curious. How many days in winter have PM2.5s over 50ish in the SLC area, in general?

    Honestly if it's like this for much of the winter, we will just leave. Life is way too short to be breathing 2 weeks worth of leftover exhaust all day.

    -Walt
    Walt I believe you used to live on the Front Range....I lived in Utah prior to moving to Golden. The last 3 years we lived in Utah, we lived in the valley and I had some issues as well.....nothing major, but everything cleared up for me once we moved. Not that the air quality in Denver is stellar the air in SLC is really bad.

    One thing people don't realize is it is just as bad if not worse in the summer as it gets hot there and create ozone that will sit in the valley for weeks at high levels. Some of our long time friends there now have asthma.

    Those inversions are nasty and it is pretty common to get at least one bad one per winter and as others have said they can last weeks depending on how storms are tracking. The Wasatch tends to get frequent storms which helps......

  6. #6
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    Here is another good site to check. Has more data and detail to geek out on than DAQ and gives forecast map and stuff.And it's based on more current EPA guidelines/metrics so I am told (I don't know) AIRNow - Utah Air Quality

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    Better pack it up.

    As everyone else said it varies from year to year just like temperature and snowfall. Basically the smog is an issue about 50% of the days in Dec Jan Feb March and an occasional day in the summer. You could move to park city
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  8. #8
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    Yeah, we'll see

    We can pretty much live anywhere we want, so if it drives us nuts (which currently, it is) we'll just move elsewhere. Maybe back to Boulder, maybe somewhere new and interesting.

    Honestly, it's not so much the pollution itself - it's that most people here don't seem to care, and even the ones who do care don't actually change their behavior (I have neighbors with Sierra club stickers on their cars who will drive 3 blocks to get a couple items from the grocery store). It amazes me that burning wood is allowed, ever, for any reason in the valley, too - but I guess that's Utah for you.

    -Walt

    Quote Originally Posted by Pedalfaraway View Post
    As everyone else said it varies from year to year just like temperature and snowfall. Basically the smog is an issue about 50% of the days in Dec Jan Feb March and an occasional day in the summer. You could move to park city
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  9. #9
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    I think the bigget elephant in the room isn't the cars but the refineries on Beck Street. Untill they really clean up the industrial portions not driving your car isn't going to make an impact. He'll, one of the nations worst polluters Magcorp is out by Stansbury, You also have Kennecott out there too.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Live2rideUtah View Post
    I think the bigget elephant in the room isn't the cars but the refineries on Beck Street. Untill they really clean up the industrial portions not driving your car isn't going to make an impact. He'll, one of the nations worst polluters Magcorp is out by Stansbury, You also have Kennecott out there too.
    This^^

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Live2rideUtah View Post
    I think the bigget elephant in the room isn't the cars but the refineries on Beck Street. Untill they really clean up the industrial portions not driving your car isn't going to make an impact. He'll, one of the nations worst polluters Magcorp is out by Stansbury, You also have Kennecott out there too.
    When we moved to UT back in 03 we got the rude introduction to inversions. In my experience it seems we get a couple pretty crappy ones each year that last a week or so. In a really wet year they never get bad as the frequent storms sweep the inversions out. Really dry years like last year don't seem as bad either as the lack of snow on the ground hinder the formation of really bad, persistant inversions. Worst case scenarios for them are years like this year thus far, big storm that covers the valley in snow, then a long dry spell. Usually these patterns are gone by mid Feb when our spring cycles kick in. The mountains here get the bulk of their snow Feb-April.

    The opinion around SLC seems to be that the vast majority of the blame lies with industry, especially the Beck St refineries, Magcorp, and Kenecott. I always believed that up until a couple years ago when I looked into the problem more and was essentially looking for which companies to blame most. As it turns out, that may have been true years ago but today, pollution from vehicles is the biggest contributor to the inversion problem. Here's a couple quotes that sum up the current facts which I know I was really uninformed about in the past.

    Today, U.S. Magnesium is the third largest magnesium producer in the world. US Magnesium’s environmental improvements and recent track record have been substantial and include a reduction of emissions by 90% since 2000 (97% since 1989).<12> The EPA data recognizes this as the single largest reduction in air emissions in the category of hazardous air pollutants since the TRI began in 1987 at any single facility.<16> Also, the energy improvements in US Magnesium’s manufacturing process caused a net reduction of 100,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide emissions.<16> US Magnesium was the recipient of a 2004 Climate Protection Award from the EPA.<17> and won an MEP award in 2006 for Environmental Consciousness.

    Where Pollutants Come From
    Along the Wasatch Front, 60 percent of particulate matter and 70 percent of carbon monoxide emissions come from vehicles. Industrial sources account for 70 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions, with vehicles accounting for the remaining 30 percent.

    I always heard it was something like 90% industrial pollution and 10% vehicle and that it was stupid to tell people not to drive when industry was the cause of inversions. That may have been true a decade or two ago but with population booming, people driving more, and industrail regulations getting better things have shifted. Unfortunately I don't think most understand that our own driving habits are really huring our air quality.

    While the inversions suck, I don't think it's all doom and gloom, awareness seems to be getting better, slowly but surely. Even politicians seem to be taking note and technological advances are giving us the abilities to clean up industrial pollution problems(if the companies will cooperate). Last I heard 3 of the 4 refineries are undergoing expansion but they all are at least claiming that their waste output will be less after growing their actual production numbers. Mass transit is getting much better as well with Trax and Frontrunner expansions. It's certainly an uphill battle though, the political party that dominates this state isn't very well know for environmental protection.
    Last edited by catch22; 01-07-2013 at 06:58 PM.
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  12. #12
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    Yeah, what gets me is when I see someone sleeping in a running vehicle in the parking lot of a shopping center. With gas prices being what they are and smog levels like they are, they seem clueless about whats going on.
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  13. #13
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    My smart friend says otherwise

    It's (mostly) the cars. Fun to blame big bad industry, though.

    My friend/former neighbor/unicycle buddy in Boulder Jim Roberts works specifically on particulate pollutants and ozone (he is actually doing a winter ozone/UT study right now) and he told me that the problem is basically vehicle emissions. As a non-chemist I will take his word for it.

    Got some good ideas from blog comments on masks for riding in the smog, though:
    Respro: Sports & Leisure - Cycling - Sportsta Mask

    BTW, OT, but does anyone know if Mountain Dell (up Parley's) is in the muck or not? I was thinking of going XC skiing up there but if it's in the soup, nuts to that.


    -Walt

    Quote Originally Posted by Live2rideUtah View Post
    I think the bigget elephant in the room isn't the cars but the refineries on Beck Street. Untill they really clean up the industrial portions not driving your car isn't going to make an impact. He'll, one of the nations worst polluters Magcorp is out by Stansbury, You also have Kennecott out there too.
    Waltworks Custom Bicycles
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  14. #14
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    Park City, Heber and Sundance areas are in tne clear. Basically if you can live up in any of the many canyons or in the Wasatch back, your in the clear.
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Live2rideUtah View Post
    I think the bigget elephant in the room isn't the cars but the refineries on Beck Street. Untill they really clean up the industrial portions not driving your car isn't going to make an impact. He'll, one of the nations worst polluters Magcorp is out by Stansbury, You also have Kennecott out there too.

    If they force the refineries out you wont be ABLE to drive your car since thats where your gas comes from. We are fortunate that we dont get all the pollution SLC are does. We just got fallout from the test site for a couple of decades.
    Last edited by STT GUY; 01-08-2013 at 08:41 AM.
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  16. #16
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    There is a story on Fox 13 News right now, quoting Dr Brian Moench of the Division of Air Quality who says:

    38% of the state's air pollution comes from cars
    28% comes from large industries
    26% from commercial (fast food restaurants, businesses)
    8% comes from households (wood burning and other things).

    He says Rio Tinto is the biggest industrial contributor, then the oil refineries are next, but Kennecott says they contribute 5.8% of annual emissions to the local air shed, and that they shut down their power plant during the winter, and their mine and smelter are above the inversion. That smokestack near Saltair is the highest freestanding structure west of the Mississippi, and now puts out almost nothing compared to what it emitted before the mid 90s.

    For what it's worth, here's that story:
    Who is to blame for Utah’s bad air quality? | FOX13Now.com
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  17. #17
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    mountain Dell

    Quote Originally Posted by Walt View Post
    It's (mostly) the cars. Fun to blame big bad industry, though.

    My friend/former neighbor/unicycle buddy in Boulder Jim Roberts works specifically on particulate pollutants and ozone (he is actually doing a winter ozone/UT study right now) and he told me that the problem is basically vehicle emissions. As a non-chemist I will take his word for it.

    Got some good ideas from blog comments on masks for riding in the smog, though:
    Respro: Sports & Leisure - Cycling - Sportsta Mask

    BTW, OT, but does anyone know if Mountain Dell (up Parley's) is in the muck or not? I was thinking of going XC skiing up there but if it's in the soup, nuts to that.


    -Walt
    Mtn dell is probably clear. You can look down on the smog cloud from the top of Emagration Canyon
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  18. #18
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    Thank you for posting this, I was about to post this. It seems as thought it is not just fun to blame the big boys but it is the truth? Plus Utah isn't meeting the federal guidlines on what all of these large industries have to do in order to clean the particulates out. Yes they have improved but still are not meeting the standards.
    Quote Originally Posted by authalic View Post
    There is a story on Fox 13 News right now, quoting Dr Brian Moench of the Division of Air Quality who says:

    38% of the state's air pollution comes from cars
    28% comes from large industries
    26% from commercial (fast food restaurants, businesses)
    8% comes from households (wood burning and other things).

    He says Rio Tinto is the biggest industrial contributor, then the oil refineries are next, but Kennecott says they contribute 5.8% of annual emissions to the local air shed, and that they shut down their power plant during the winter, and their mine and smelter are above the inversion. That smokestack near Saltair is the highest freestanding structure west of the Mississippi, and now puts out almost nothing compared to what it emitted before the mid 90s.

    For what it's worth, here's that story:
    Who is to blame for Utah’s bad air quality? | FOX13Now.com

  19. #19
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    A famous study (I first read it in an epidemiology textbook) tracked a time period a few years before a steel mill in Utah County closed, while it was closed, and when it reopened throughout the 80-90s. Asthma and bronchitis hospitalization in small children in both Utah and Salt Lake counties was cut in half when the mill closed and went back to previous level when reopened.
    The study is correlational of course but was considered fairly tight controlling for smoking, temperature, location, population, etc. I found a copy and can email it to anyone who wishes.

    Yes there are multiple sources of this but we can say we are putting our kids in the hospital with them.

    But when my car doesn't meet standards, they say tough luck-pay up to get it to standards or find another way to get to work. When industry doesn't meet their standards they get told, "Aww shucks, promise to try harder next time."

    And I do take DAQ stats with a bit of salt as they are in charge of trying to get everything to EPA requirements. They have a vested interest in the outcome of the numbers. Not to say anything is happening, but it's something to keep in mind.

    And of course looking at the members of the board: Utah DEQ: DAQ: Air Quality Board: Members More environmental interests (one) and medical professionals (one) would be nice. The rest are all industry interested parties, one independent engineer, and local government officials who vote, well for industry.

  20. #20
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    I clicked on this thinking it was about Halston Inversion forks, boy was I wrong.
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  21. #21
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    Hey Walt, I am interested to know what made you move to SLC. You have stated that you can live anywhere so why there?

    I grew up in SLC and really enjoyed it until I found So. Utah. Now I can't understand why anybody puts up with the weather and inversion.

  22. #22
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    Inversion is gone, weather looks nice. the summer months alone are enough for me not to live in Southern Utah, I have family down there and go down quite often but couldnt live there. It would be different if the winters in St George were in the 60-70 degree range in the winter but in SLC right now it is 45 degrees and 48 degrees down in St George, plus they see thier fair share of 30 degree weather and when summer does show up and it is 70 in the mountains up here and 105 on the rocks down there. And then if you are a skier or boarder at all your in heaven in SLC.
    Last edited by Live2rideUtah; 01-10-2013 at 09:06 AM.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Live2rideUtah View Post
    Inversion is gone, weather looks nice. the summer months alone are enough for me not to live in Southern Utah, I have family down there and go down quite often but couldnt live there. It would be different if the winters in St George were in the 60-70 degree range in the winter but in SLC right now it is 45 degrees and 48 degrees down in St George, plus they see thier fair share of 30 degree weather and when summer does show up and it is 70 in the mountains up here and 105 on the rocks down there. And then if you are a skier or boarder at all your in heaven in SLC.
    Is your name Walt too?

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    more the 3 degree difference.

    Its an unusual occurance that SLC is only a few degress Cooler then St george. In the next five days the average forcasted high for SLC is 20 degrees with lows below 0. St George has a forecast of a 35 degree aveage. thats 15 degrees warmer. 35 degrees with dry ground is a rideable day and 20 degrees with ice snow and wet roads is not. St george has rideable days with dry ground every month of the year. There 50+ degree days that come around all winter in St George. How many 47 degree days do you remember in Jan and Feb in SLC?? Maybe 2 a year
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by can't get right View Post
    Now I can't understand why anybody puts up with the weather and inversion.
    I know that this is a bike forum. Biking comes first here. With that in mind, St. George has so much to offer ...though it does get hot in the summer. I prefer St. George over Moab any day of the week for Southern Utah riding.

    For many people (I know you already know this) There is one very compelling argument that makes every inversion day up north worth living through.
    [IMG]pow shot[/IMG]

    Nothing beats a good powder turn...

    For that reason alone, I could never leave. But if I did, St. George is very compelling. I am fortunate to have access to a home and work that take me there often.

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