El Paso, TX (KTSM) — While air is never perfectly clean, many natural resources of air pollution have always existed with; breaking waves, pollen, volcanic eruptions, forest fires and blowing dust. As long as humans have occupied earth, we’ve added to the frequency and intensity of some of these natural pollutants.
Studying the pollutants created by humans has existed for centuries.
In 1661 John Evelyn wrote about air pollution, specifically the burning of sulfur-rich coal.
So how does all of this connect with meteorological factors?
The most known factor influencing air pollution is the number of contaminants emitted into the atmosphere.
Experience shows that even when emissions remain relatively steady for long periods of time and vary from day to day.
The two most important atmospheric conditions affecting the dispersion of pollutions are wind and stability of the atmosphere.
Assume that a burst of pollution leaves a chimney every second if the wind speed is 12 mph and the distance between each pollution cloud was five meters and the wind increased to 24 mph the pollution clouds would be spaced twice as far apart.
It is much easier to see and understand air pollutants affecting the community when winds are weak.
Atmospheric stability determines the extent to which vertical air-flow will mix the pollution with cleaner air above.
Instability promotes vertical air movements and greater mixing depths. Which allows the pollutants to disperse better.
However when air is stable, convectional motions are suppressed and mixing depths are small, not allowing the pollutants to disperse, letting it build and reach unhealthy levels.