Sunday, January 28, 2007

At the Salt Lake outdoor retailer show, people advised to stay indoors

Salt Lake City is in the throes of an unusually long temperature inversion that has swathed the city in a thick layer of fog, causing health officials to issue warnings that people should stay indoors if possible.
Yesterday, on the first day of the Outdoor Retailer show which attracts 10,000 people every winter, the Salt Lake Tribune ran a story advising people to stay indoors and limit outside exercise.
Outside, a soupy brown murk hid the nearby mountains entirely and turned the tall buildings of downtown Salt Lake into gray shadows.
Inside, dozens of companies touted their earth-friendly innovations. Many use recycled materials and offset their energy use by buying wind power. There was even a "green" fabric maker, which produced polyester from old soda bottles, serving green beer.
Outside, the air was so bad you could actually taste it.
An inversion occurs when cold air is trapped on the ground, below warmer air. Usually, the air near the ground is warmer than the stuff above. That's why it's generally colder on Pikes Peak than it is in Colorado Springs. Since warm air rises and cold air sinks, the air is constantly mixing. But during an inversion, the cold air has already sunk. It sits there like a layer in one of those awful-tasting multi-tiered cocktails. Nothing mixes and all the car emissions and dirt that a city belches out just sits there. Usually it takes a good wind to clear things out. There is no wind at all in the forecast, so Salt Lake's smog will be sticking around.
Meanwhile, all the outdoorsy types trying to jog before the show end up feeling like they smoked a few Newports.
"I didn't think it would be that bad," on of the sales reps at North Face told me, "But when I was done, I really felt awful."

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