10 December 2009

SkyWatch Friday: Life at Minus Twenty & the Air Quality Problem

I enjoy these cold snaps when the temperature goes to minus 20 or 30 deg F at night, and does not rise above zero for days on end. But it does make for air quality problems.

Air quality problem? In the pristine Northern Rockies of Montana?

It's easy for me not to think about. After all, I live in Walkerville, the old town on the hill above Butte (looking northeast from the west side of the Butte Hill toward Walkerville):

On the hill, the air is crystal clear. But Butte, Montana, like many high mountain valleys, suffers from air inversions:  cold, dense air flows down from the surrounding mountains and is trapped in the valley. Air pollution -- primarily wood stove smoke and vehicle exhaust -- is also trapped. The sun cooks it into a nasty bluish-to-brownish goo, i.e."smog."

Compare this view (looking south east from the west side of the Butte Hill toward "the flats") with the photo above:

Good news is, the weather is supposed to break in the next day or so. Warmer air and wind will sweep the stagnant smog away, and improve the quality of life for the denizens of the Butte Flats and other cities of the Mountain West.


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Anonymous said...

While handling Skywatch leaves me not much time to comment, I visit and enjoy your blog frequently.
This post is no exception.

Cheers, Klaus

'Tabib' said...

The same smog problem over here 3 months ago. Rain washed all that, but it bring cloudy and grey sky for most days now.

Anyway that make a good pictures.
Happy SW Friday!.

Gaelyn said...

Nice to live above the soup, but makes for an interesting sky. Nice captures.

Judy said...

And that is how London used to have pea soup fogs! So glad that is something I only read about!!! Humans really should clean up their act!

mountain.mama said...

You enjoy cold snaps at 20 below? This does not compute! We get those nasty inversions in Vernal but frequently drive out of them as we go up another 1000+ feet on the way home.

Meredith said...

Wow... 20 below. I've felt it before, lived it a few winters of my life, and it is true that you forget. Your body forgets. But your well-written post has brought it all back with clarity -- the words even seemed to have a bit of a cold zing to them as I read.

I was upset when we got down to 28 yesterday, so early in the season. Clearly, I'm a southern weakling!

Arija said...

Although the valley wives some wind protection to the settlement, in winter the cold air sink is bound to have pollution problems.
Wood smoke is not so bad, but exhaust fumes are a whole other story. Nice shots though.

troutbirder said...

Twenty below is definitely doable as long as it doesn't last for weeks on end. Smoke from a campfire or even of little from my Ben Franklin is not to bad. But covering the whole town... no thanks.

Lisa Wilson said...

Cool photos! It is funny that people think just because you live at a high altitude that air quality is never a concern. In Telluride it's against the law to let your car idle for more than 3 minutes because of the particulates in the canyon.

Janie said...

The Uinta Basin gets inversions, too - and sometimes they last for weeks.

Rainer said...

Dear Pat,

I will come to Big Sky Filmfest on 12th of February. Can we meet and show the new film?

Sorry, I could not contact you by your last year's address and hope to get your new address.

Cheers, Rainer (Milltown/Muelheim)