Anti-Smog Project Gets Under Way

Researchers are studying a weather phenomenon that traps pollutants in urban mountain valleys in the hope of creating better forecasting methods and lessening the impact of the pollution on cities.

Sixty researchers from 14 agencies have gathered here to study temperature inversions, which can plague cities such as Denver and Los Angeles with smog. The monthlong project is part of a $12 million, four-year study funded by the U.S. Energy Department.

"If so and so releases so much junk into the air, we want to know where does it go and how does it dissipate," Chris Doran, the project's lead scientist, said Thursday.

He said understanding how pollutant trapping inversions form and break up can lead to improvements in everything from air quality to aircraft operation. For example, a computer model could determine when fog will break up, opening the skies for a plane's landing.

Salt Lake, flanked by rugged mountains to the east and the Great Salt Lake to the west, is a perfect test site because of its topography and weather patterns.

As part of the study, hundreds of red balloons will be released at night to help scientists understand how columns of air mix and move up through the layers of hot and cold air.

Radar and sonar will be used to study the structure of the temperature layers.

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