Atmosphere Inversion and how it can cause poor air quality

6 Storm Team Weather School

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Meteorologists think of the atmosphere in three dimensions and often talk about what’s called a normal profile within the atmosphere. This is when there is warmer air at the surface, and cooler air as you go up in elevation.

In East Tennessee, we can get what is called an inversion. It’s basically when temperatures increase in a small layer above the cooler air, so you kind of get a warm layer of air that traps air beneath it. This inversion, especially in the summertime, can trap pollutants underneath it, causing smog or poor air quality across the area.

Ozone can sometimes get trapped in both lower and higher elevation areas, depending on where the inversion sets up across the area. It can be kind of a shallow layer close to the surface or could be a little bit higher which would encompass areas like in the Smokies.

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