Smoke Carbon Monoxide and Smog how Weather Affects Air Pollution

The weather can play a significant role in the presence and dispersion of air pollution. When the temperature drops, the effects of pollution increases. Why is this? High pressure systems during winter create an environment where the air hardly circulates as it does in warmer seasons. This builds up various pollutants in the atmosphere that hangs over a city or town like a heavy, invisible blanket. On the other hand, low pressure systems bring rain or snow, and are often accompanied by winds. These particular elements of nature can be compared to using a soapy, bristle brush on a dirty window; they aid in keeping the atmosphere clean by removing various pollutants from the air.

Pollution is also affected by a inversion of temperature. This is a weather condition where a layer of warm air sits directly above a layer of cold air. This parfait-like temperature scenario traps air pollutants in the vicinity of where we breathe with no possible chance of ever being dispersed as long as the two layers of air remain inverted.  Respiratory issues may become more problematic during winter extremely because of the combination of pollutants that are released and become trapped in the air during a temperature inversion. Two very hazardous particle pollutants that reach especially unhealthy levels in winter include:

•Smoke from fireplaces and wood stoves.

•Carbon monoxide- During winter, carbon monoxide generated by automobiles can reach dangerous levels during inversions. 

Therefore, people are encouraged to minimize air pollution caused by these two sources by stopping or reducing the use of wood burning units, and when possible, leaving their cars behind and instead walk, cycle, carpool or ride the bus.

Really, weather can play a role in the effects and the extent of air pollution during any season on any given day. Although strong winds can carry away air pollutants from a city blanketed by heavy smog, it will merely disperse this common form of pollution to another area, such as a nearby rural town.  On days where no wind is present, pollutants naturally become more and more concentrated. The accumulation of smog increases as a direct result of warmer temperatures and a bright, clear sky. The term for smog created under these circumstances is called photochemical smog.  

If you suffer from bronchitis, asthma or some other respiratory issue, it is crucial that you keep track of the weather on a continual basis. You should beware not to venture outdoors or keep doors or windows open during still and warm sunny days, especially during the summer. In addition, track easterly winds. If  a low pressure system is right above a high pressure system and both are stationed east of your town or city, air pollution carried by easterly winds will be heading toward your vicinity.