Salt Lake City suffers through weeks of air quality problems
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — When the weather history of January is written, it might be all about the persistent cold air pools that lingered in many western valleys, setting the stage for record-low temperatures, something that’s been quite uncommon in recent years.
In Summit County, only one temperature record was broken during the month, a record minimum high of 7 degrees on Jan. 16 at the Dillon weather station. The previous record-old high temperature for the day was 9 degrees, set not all that long ago, in 2007.
No record highs were set in Summit County, but nearby, Climax broke its all-time record high for January 27, hitting 44 degrees. The previous record of 42 degrees was set back in 1927. A few spots nearby, notably Williams Fork Dam, set both daily record high and low readings.
Across the U.S., 1,327 daily high temperature records have been tied or broken through Jan. 29. Only 698 low temperature records have been tied or broken.
You can tally the record highs and lows yourself with this interactive map provided by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.
Several spots in southeastern Colorado also shattered existing high temperature records by up to 5 degrees as temperatures soared into the low 70s in late January.
Several other locations in northwest Colorado and in the San Luis Valley may set records for extended periods of cold weather thanks to the persistent cold and dry spell during the middle part of the month. Cold air was trapped near the surface by a layer of warmer air aloft, keeping valley temperatures very cold, while nearby mountain slopes were often 10 to 20 degrees warmer.
Similar conditions prevailed around much of the Great Basin. Some locations in Nevada reported near-record streaks of cold temperature readings, and Salt Lake City suffered some of its worst air air qualit episodes, with levels of pollution reaching four times the limit set by EPA air quality standards.
The air wasn’t quite as bad as in Beijing, but the air quality is headed in that direction unless something is done, according to atmospheric scientists in the area. Last week, 100 doctors sent a letter to the Utah lawmakers, calling the air quality a public health emergency because of the buildup of particles that can impair lung function and aggravate chronic respiratory conditions.