Why Is California So Smoggy?

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The better question is, why smog such a problem in California? Three chief factors are supporting the unhealthy levels of air pollution in California:

  • Large amounts of air pollution have been generated by the actions of 33 million people,
  • Terrain or topography traps contamination, and
  • A warm, sunny climate helps form ozone and other air pollutants.

Plenty of People, Lots of Pollution
During personal and business activities, Californians release thousands of tons of pollutants into the atmosphere every day. The joint pollution in the 33 million Californians adds up to a big issue, although each of us might create a little bit of air pollution.

Sources of Air Pollution
Some air pollutants are released and formed through the combustion (burning) of petroleum-based products and other fuels such as wood. Examples of these air pollution sources are:

1. Gasoline and diesel-powered motor vehicles such as cars, trucks, trains and boats;
2. Factories;
3. Electricity plants; and
4. Fireplaces.

Tons of pollutants also enter the air through evaporation (liquids turning into gases). Sources of air pollution from evaporation comprise:

1. Fuel from gas storage and dispensing facilities (service stations, gas terminals, and refineries);
2. Automobile and truck gasoline tanks and gas storage containers;
3. Businesses that use solvents and paint;
4. Personal, household, and business consumer goods such as automotive cleaning products, hairsprays, and aerosol paints which contain smog-forming ingredients such as hydrocarbon propellants and alcohol.

The Perfect Conditions For Smog
California’s land and its hot, sunny climate are ideal for forming and trapping air pollutants. California cities are built on shore or in valleys. These regions are natural bowls that trap air pollution and block the air from circulating. On some days temperature inversions (in which the air closer to the ground becomes cooler than the air above) behave as grasses that trap air pollutants close to the ground. This prevents vertical mixing (the upper, cleaner air mixing with the reduced, polluted air) and the dispersion of pollutants.

On hot days, pollutants emitted by vehicles, industry, And several products (nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds) react with each other to produce ozone, the principal ingredient of smog.

Throughout the winter, temperature inversions can trap tiny Particles of smoke and exhaust from automobiles, trucks, fireplaces, and anything which burns fuel. This retains the pollution close to the ground and in our lungs.