Utah Air Quality, Huge Concern or Barely Noticeable?

Aug 17, 2012

The Professional Explanation

For Marty Booth, a meteorologist for the Utah Climate Center, the current air in Utah is an issue.  

"I bike every day to work. I've been affected by it already."

Particulate matter, also known as particle pollution, is a complex mixture of extremely small dust and soot particles. Due to a combination of wind and fires in Nevada and Idaho Utah is experiencing spiking levels of PM2.5 as well as ozone.

"We're now moving into this pattern here where we have a high pressure system moving over the top of us. It's locking in the smoke that's been blowing in from the west-northwest over  the past few days. We are getting some of the PM2.5 or some of the soot you see in the air from fires, but the strong bad air quality you're seeing is not necessarily due to just the smoke."

The Man on the Street Perspective

For some of the citizens in Cache Valley the air quality doesn’t seem to be noticeable. However, there are a few concerned citizens.

Debbie and Paisley Tarboton: "It smelled so smoky this morning. When I went to the gym it was very noticeable. When I run it's in my lungs. My doctor says it's not good."

"I didn't notice."

Marcus Neilsen: "We sleep with our windows open so we could smell it last night when we were sleeping. I think it woke me up. I'm wondering when it's going to blow away."

The Numbers

Bruce Bugbee, Professor  in Utah State University's Department of Plant, Soil, and Climate, has been monitoring and quantifying the haze in Cache Valley:

"We typically see a straight line across the top at 32 km on a normal summer week.  The past 30 hours have been the worst all summer.  Most of this is caused by PM2.5 particles."

This chart shows 7 days of visibility in Logan. There is a noticeable drop over the past 2 days.
Credit weather.usu.edu

Click here for current conditions and the air quality forecast from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality