The Good News: There Were Fewer Inversions Than Last Winter

Feb 28, 2017

Credit Jay Breidenbach / National Weather Service

The Treasure Valley has suffered through unusually high snowfall this winter. Between October 1, 2016, and February 1, 2017, more than 35 inches fell. All that snow has covered up the usual complaint about Southern Idaho winters: Inversions. Yes, those cold, grey, smoggy days.

"An inversion just means that the temperature is warmer aloft than it is at the surface," explains Tim Barker with the Boise National Weather Service. "The main reason that it happens more in the winter is that cold air is more dense, so it flows downhill and goes to lower elevations.”

According to Barker, all this cold air can trap pollution, making the air hazy and unhealthy to breathe.

“They have really good work with the DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) here that they can talk to some of the industries and say, 'can you put off doing some of the maintenance that you might be doing,' or 'cut back on your emissions' and so, they actually do a pretty good job of keeping everyone safe.”

The Weather Service doesn’t track inversion days, but their meteorologists say we’ve had fewer than normal this year. As Barker reminds us, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

“Once we get into, say, mid-to-late February, the sun gets higher in the sky. The air everywhere is starting to warm up as we get into spring, and so then we don’t get quite as cold at the surface and [inversions] don’t tend to last multiple days anymore.”

Winter 2016-17  officially ends on March 20. 

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