Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

One Facility Makes Big Contribution to Salt Lake’s Winter Brown Cloud

Finding helps explain Salt Lake City's persistent air quality problems

The 2.4 million people who live along Utah’s Wasatch Front experience some of the most severe winter particulate matter air pollution in the nation. Now, analysis of measurements taken during NOAA research flights in 2017 indicates that emissions from a single source, a magnesium refinery, may be responsible for a significant fraction of the fine particles that form the dense winter brown clouds that hang over Salt Lake City. 

The finding was published this week in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Lead author Carrie Womack, a CIRES scientist working at NOAA, said analysis of airborne measurements directly from the plume rising from the US Magnesium refinery during a 2017 winter air pollution study in Utah found that emissions of chlorine and bromine, known as halogenated compounds, were significant contributors to the persistent winter brown clouds.

More from NOAA Research

CIRES is a partnership of NOAA and CU Boulder.

Recent Stories