Blame The Cold For Denver’s Smog This Week

March 6, 2019
Photo: Denver Air Pollution March 2019 | Brown Cloud Downtown - AP
As traffic rolls along Speer Boulevard in the foreground, the skyline is shrouded as pollution fills the air Wednesday, March 6, 2019, in Denver.

State meteorologists predict the smoggy skies and poor air quality in the northern Front Range may last until Friday.

The state issued an “action day” for seven counties in the Denver-Metro through Wednesday evening because of fine particulates in the air and extremely poor visibility. The air is deemed “unhealthy” for sensitive groups of people.  

Scott Landes, a meteorologist with the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division, said the build-up of pollution is because of a strong inversion overhead. That’s when there’s cold air near the surface of the Earth and warmer air above, he said.  

“That means all the air that’s near the surface of the Earth gets trapped,” he said. “So any emissions we have around the area, be it from power plants, automobiles, oil and gas, it all gets trapped near the surface of the Earth and that’s why we get all these fine, high particulate levels.”

Landes said the inversion is common during winter months but normally Colorado sees pollution like this in January or February when there’s colder weather. He said March temperatures so far have been between 20 and 40 degrees below normal for this time of year.

“Normally we don’t see this as much in the early part of March,” he said. “What these fine particulates do is make everything look very hazy, gives us this typical brown cloud that we see.”

Landes predicts the smog will gradually improve through Wednesday evening. He said a storm on Thursday and going into Friday will help clear the particulates.

People with heart or lung disease, older adults and children should avoid being outside. Indoor burning restrictions are also in effect and the state requests people limit driving.

State meteorologists predict the smoggy skies and poor air quality in the Northern Front Range may be around until Friday.