Breakdown: Why air pollution can be worse in the winter

Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 10:36 AM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) -I don’t know about you but when I think of air pollution being the worst, I think of summer and hot humid stagnant air. However, air pollution is actually worse during winter. The reason air pollution is worst in winter is things like cloudy or overcast weather, specifically tends to trap the pollution beneath the clouds. This is where the warm air acts as a cap, covering air pollutants.

Often times on a cold night, there is a warm layer of air between the layers of cooler air. This is called an inversion in which warm layers prevent the air below it from passing through. This means that pollutants from household heating, vehicle exhausts, and other industrial pollutants circulate near the surface. The concentration of toxins in the air we breathe increases. The cold air is denser and heavier; therefore it often slides down leaving the warmer air above.

If you suffer from asthma or congestive problems the best thing is rain or snow to help clear the air.

While industrial pollution is at constant levels throughout the year, household heating and emissions from the vehicles are getting higher during the colder days of the winter. Especially in lower income countries where is likely to burn garbage and coal for heating causing levels of PM2.5, carbon monoxide and other toxins increase significantly.

Air pollution seem to be worsening worldwide. Winter is definitely the worst time due to demand for energy as it gets colder, accompanied by more burning of coal and other fossil fuels. In Indian cities, people burn more biomass to heat their homes. The end of the harvest season also means that farmers burn the stubble off their fields. Throughout the northern hemisphere, there is more smoke from fireplaces and wood burners. In addition, many idle cars poisoning the atmosphere with carbon dioxide and you have a toxic mix.

Scientist say that more environmentally-friendly measures are needed. Recently, Italy’s economic minister confirmed that his country is committed to phasing out coal tby 2025. Italy now joins France, the UK, and Canada in pledging to end coal-burning which many believe is a step in the right direction.

Some scientist suggest that a change to electric or hybrid cars and limiting the volume of traffic would also help.

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