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Temperature inversion causing haze in the Snake River Plain

Cold weather continues to make going outside miserable if you’re not prepared. Though forecasters are predicting a warming trend for the next week, freezing temperatures remain in the Snake River Plain. This cold air can often cause what is called “temperature inversion,” resulting in several strange phenomena.

Tim Axford, a forecaster at the National Weather Service in Pocatello, says, “We’ll get a lot of the colder air settling into a lot of the valleys and more rural locations, like the Snake Plain. Meanwhile, it can be 10 to 15 degrees warmer if you go up a couple thousand feet.”

When colder air settles into a valley, a temperature inversion can form. High pressure pushes down onto colder air near the surface. This keeps that cold air from dispersing within a valley. Stagnant air forms and keeps the air much cooler than higher elevations. A common belief is that higher altitudes have lower temperatures. In a temperature inversion, that’s not the case. Among colder temperatures, a hazy atmosphere is also associated with temperature inversions.

Pollutants will stay in the air. It will look hazy even foggy due to particles in the air that linger in the same area. This can last for several days until we get a weather system strong enough to push out much of that stagnant air. “The air can’t get mixed up enough, it’s kinda’ like smoke in the summertime,” Axford explains, “you get that haze and stagnant air and physicality concerns. Normally we can see big southern butte but we can’t because of the haze.”

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