What Makes A Temperature Inversion?

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By By Steve Pool

SEATTLE - This happens when you have warm air that sits on top of a pool of cold air.

Normally the temperature gets colder as you go higher in altitude. But on cold, calm nights, cold air will settle near the surface since cold air is heavier than warm air.

In the meantime, a lack of winds will prevent the air from mixing. The pattern also usually creates ground fog.

When the sun comes up, it will start to warm the air above the fog layer, creating an inversion -- it's actually warmer in higher altitudes than at the ground.

That helps further trap the cold air, and everything else in it, near the surface -- including pollutants. That's why air quality suffers during inversions and usually leads to burn bans.

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These images were taken Sunday, December 14 with a Nikon D3100 and an Explore Scientific ED127 (Moon) and ED80 (M42
and M31).
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The images of M42 (Orion) and M31 (Andromeda) are short
stacks (lights only) taken Sunday evening with an Explore
Scientific ED80 (wide angle) telescope and a Nikon D3100 DSLR. The image of the moon was taken with an Explore Scientific ED127 (5-inch) refractor.