‘Nerd-mobile’ among tools Utah researchers using to study inversions

Posted at 9:31 PM, Jan 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-28 23:31:51-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Most of us dread the inversion, but researchers like Ryan Bares with the University of Utah hope the inversion settles in, so they can study how it works.

"The inversions are really horrible to live in, but they're an excellent opportunity to do research," Barnes said.

Munkh Baasandorj, an environmental scientist with the Utah Division of Air Quality, says this study is a collaborative effort with the University of Utah and Weber State University.

"What we really don't know much is the chemistry of pollution events," Baasandorj said.

They're using a three-pronged approach, studying the air we breathe on the ground, in the air, and on wheels.

"This van we affectionately call the nerd mobile: It’s an integrated suite of instruments that measure trace gases and air quality pollutants," Barnes said.

Alongside the nerd-mobile is a large balloon, which is the brainchild of Dr. John Sohl, a physics professor at Weber State University.

"What we’re trying to find out is what the air is doing as we get away from the ground. Is it mixing? Is it stable? Is there a flow to it?” Sohl said.

Using all these tools at their disposal to measure chemicals like particulate matter, ammonia, and carbon dioxide, this team hopes to come up with a clear picture of what makes up an inversion.

"That's why we’re trying to do all of this, so that we can find out what it is we need to control, how best to control it, when do we need to control it, and see what we can do about reducing the amount of regulations we have, but making those regulations effective," Sohl said.

The goal is to maybe one day, clean up the air, allowing us all to breathe a little easier.