Inversions explained – and their link to hazy skies

Posted at 6:14 PM, Aug 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-02 20:14:31-04

During a summer afternoon, temperatures drop as the elevation increases – that is why mountaintops are often snow-capped even when temps are much warmer at lower elevations.

Water vapor at the surface rises and evaporates into the upper atmosphere, creating clouds. Some summer days look hazy and visibility is lowered. This is sometimes due to upper air temperatures flipping – creating what is called an inversion.

The inversion layer acts like a cap and traps pollen, nearby wildfire smoke, and other pollutants in the air.

This can sometimes lead to hazardous air quality levels.

With inversion, temperatures start by decreasing with elevation, but end up increasing with height in the upper atmosphere.

This creates a cap, and warm air from the surface rises but is stopped in the lower atmosphere at the layer of inversion – trapping the air in over that area.

In the summer, the sun will warm the lower atmosphere so that it gets hotter than the layer of inversion.

This breaks the inversion cap, and clouds then form quickly- some of those rising high into the atmosphere creating strong summer storms.

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