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Blowin' in the Wind, Issue #005 - A temperature inversion and its problems - March 30, 2004
March 30, 2004
Stability and the inversion temperature increasing with height.
Generally, the temperature of the air decreases with increasing altitude. The standard atmosphere, that is a representative average for the entire earth, has a surface sea level temperature of about 15°C (60°F), decreasing to about –5°C (20°F) at ten thousand feet and so on for the first few miles of depth. See more descriptions, altitude atmospheric pressure charts and examples at https://www.stuffintheair.com/Atmosphere-Layers.html. Of course deviations from this average can be very large.
Sometimes the temperature can increase at higher elevations. It’s somewhat unusual, but it happens. We call it an inversion. Inversions suppress vertical motion very strongly, and are said to be regions of powerful static stability. Often the weather we see with them has pleasant conditions. Varying temperatures, depending on the location and time of year, low wind speeds, subdued or no precipitation, usually thin cloud if any, however raised levels of humidity and pollution become a problem.
A low level inversion traps the air below, it really is a cap high temperature aloft causes and does not allow much atmospheric dispersion, or dissipation of vehicle and industrial emissions. If these conditions persist for days the build-up of smog in populated areas can be quite severe, especially in the summertime, it seems.
It is one of our key issues in the Air Quality business. And one of the reasons densely occupied places where inversions frequently occur, like California, has smog issues, leading to extensive law making, certification and related certificate requirements.
Some HistoryOver the last few decades, environmental awareness has increased amongst the general public and the changes in legislature in developed nations reflects this shift in consciousness. We have witnessed a proliferation of environmental engineering and consulting companies who assist industrial facilities and similar clients in meeting forever changing regulations. This applies to air and all disciplines of ecological study, such as meteorology, chemistry, physics, biology, geology and engineering.
Other Environmental ProblemsThe Stuff in the Air website now has several new pages that describe core circumstances addressed by one of these firms. The highlighted corporation, SEACOR, was based in Western Canada. You could have seen a corporate overview at https://www.seacorcanada.com/over.html. If it were 2004 still. And also, the home page at https://www.seacorcanada.com. These pages give descriptions of the subject areas:
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