Smog and the Dangers of Temperature Inversion
Smog can come from a number of air pollution sources. Many of these air pollution sources include automobiles, locomotives, airplanes, and factory emissions. Some of this pollution is also created during the process of power generation. Combined, these sources can create a significant amount of smog that can drown out the sun, cause adverse effects on the health of the environment, and can negatively impact the health of the residents in the affected area. If you have recently visited an industrial area, or spent time in a large metropolitan area, then you have seen smog first hand.
|Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0|
Fortunately, due to natural air currents, most people do not have to worry about smog rapidly returning to ground level after it is expelled from an industrial smoke stake. In the event of a temperature inversion the normal flow of air that allows smog to properly disperse into the atmosphere is halted. This usually occurs when air in the upper atmosphere becomes significantly warmer than air at ground level. When this occurs the ground level air, which is now heavier and denser than the upper atmosphere, does not rise and dilute the pollution created by smoke stakes. Instead, the cooler less turbulent air causes the pollution to settle on the citizens below.
|Photo by Aaron Logan|
Environmental regulations, especially in North America, have strictly enforced clean air standards that reduce the amount of pollutants that can be placed into the atmosphere. These standard reduce the destructive potential of a temperature inversion should it occur. In countries such as China, where there are more lax air quality standards, the effects of a temperature inversion can be catastrophic. In China, the economic incentive to produce products quickly and cheaply has made pushing for better regulations extremely difficult.
|Photo by Bobak Ha'Eri|
Few would dare to contend with the fact that the health and safety of the environment and the residents of any region are more important than any economic incentive. Technological advances have made it possible for all counties to compete in a more environmentally sound manner. For most struggling industrialized countries, the economic cost associated with the implementation of these technologies may be too great. Creatively motivating these countries to invest in clean technologies will continue to be a challenge.