Inversion in July not as fun as Christmas in July

photo (4)I am a summer baby, through and through. July is my favorite month. Comfortably cushioned between June and August, the temperature is reliably warm, the sky is consistently blue, and the days are perfectly long.

Contrast that with my least favorite month, January–one giant, holiday hangover. The temperature is dreadfully cold, the sky is unfortunately gray, and the days are entirely too short.

But bad air quality threatens to make these two months too similar.

The problem of Utah’s air quality has been a subject of sustained debate since a string of red air days blanketed the Northern valleys during January and February of this year. But bad air isn’t strictly a winter problem for Utah. Summer can be just as bad. Winter inversion, meet summer inversion.

Political and community leaders have started a competition that runs through the end of July to try and get Utahns to reduce their amount of driving. You can check out more about the challenge here.

While curbing single-driver trips will certainly reduce poor air quality in Utah, it is only part of the problem. Summer, not unlike winter, has the burden of car and industrial pollution. But summer also has the additional disadvantage of smoke from wildfires.

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality has issued yellow-air warnings for the next three days, meaning the air quality is dangerous for the unhealthy and for sensitive groups, like the very young and elderly. Wildfires are likely driving much of that bad air–and managing them might be more difficult than managing vehicle emissions, especially as the relationship between climate change and increased wildfires becomes more established.

Obviously, the problems are interrelated. Fossil fuels increase air pollution by putting too much carbon in the air which in turn drives climate change. And climate change produces drought conditions that increase the likelihood of forest fires, which in turn decreases our air quality.

It is a complicated problem that won’t be solved with a one-month challenge–but we have to start somewhere.

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