Breakdown: Why air pollution can be worse in winter

Published: Mar. 3, 2021 at 2:14 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) -It may be hard to believe but air pollution is worse in winter. Have you noticed that you can see the smoke from your car more in the winter or the factory smoke may be more noticeable too.

Cold air is denser or heavier and it and moves slower than warm air. Cold air can trap pollutants near the ground through what is referred to as a temperature inversion. This occurs when a layer of warmer air sits above the colder but the colder air is both below and above at the warm air. The warm air can act like a lid that traps in pollution and allergens.

A temperature inversion can happen any time of year, but the strongest inversions occur in the winter because of the longer nights and colder ground. Pollution stays at constant levels through the year however, household heating and emissions from the vehicles are higher during the colder winter season.

Air doesn’t move as freely in winter but there are things that can help make the air less stagnant. This is how things like smog, smoke, and carbon dioxide can linger for long periods of time. These pollutants usually don’t get pushed out until a weather system or event comes through that contains, wind or preciptiation.

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