Valley Views (or Lack Thereof)

From mountains to forests, rivers and more – Idaho has no shortage of beautiful landscapes and views to enjoy. However, some of these geographical features affect our weather. If you live in a valley community, then you’ll likely experience an inversion in the winter. For Boiseans, the gray skies due to an inversion may be bringing you the winter blues right now.

What is an Inversion?

Inversions are naturally-occurring weather events where a layer of warm air high above the ground surface acts as a lid or trap, holding cold air closer to the ground and preventing any sort of circulation. In Boise, this means that cold air stays at the bottom of the valley, while warmer air stays towards the top near Bogus Basin.

Fog and cooler temperatures aren’t the only things that inversions trap. The stagnant air of an inversion traps pollution from vehicle exhaust and burning wood, creating a serious public health concern. Breathing this air poses health risks, especially to more susceptible groups like people with pollution-related health conditions, the elderly and children.

The severity of inversions varies depending on how long the weather stays stagnant and what activities occur during that time. That’s where you come in. The more pollution we all create, the more pollution gets trapped during inversions, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to reduce air pollution during inversions.

How To Help

  • Drive less. Vehicle exhaust is a major contributor of air pollutants during inversions.
  • Take public transit or carpool. We all still need to get around, but consider using public transit or coordinating a carpool with family and friends.
  • Be careful with when and what you burn. Limit the amount of wood burning you do, unless it’s your primary source of heat. Only burn clean, dry wood and follow all air quality advisories.
  • Telework. Many people commute to work, but could you work from home or another space within a walkable distance? If you’re unsure, work with your employer to create a telework policy at your workplace.

Interested In Protecting Air Quality?

ICL’s work on inversions is part of our larger efforts on climate change and to protect the air we all breathe. We work on inversions, air pollution from transportation, and wildfire smoke. To learn more about air quality where you live, click here.