Atmospheric Inversion

An atmospheric inversion is an adverse weather condition that can intensify malodors and malodor-related problems. Atmospheric inversions most commonly occur during warm and often humid summer months.

During a cloudless summer day, the ground is warmed directly by the sun and more quickly than the atmosphere. The atmosphere is then warmed indirectly by the upward movement of heat or "thermals" from the ground. With the upward movement of thermals, malodors that are produced at a wastewater treatment plant are carried into the atmosphere (Figure 22.1). This atmospheric condition reduces the movement of malodors from the wastewater treatment plant to adjacent neighborhoods.

During a cloudless night, the ground loses heat more quickly than the air. The air closest to the ground cools most rapidly. This change or inversion of a warm "blanket" of air during the day to a cool "blanket" of air during the early evening hours (6-8 p.m.) entraps malodors in the cool blanket of air (Figure 22.2). This

0 Malodorous compound ^ Thermal

FIGURE 22.1 Atmospheric inversions, thermals. During the day the ground warms more quickly than the atmosphere. This results in the production of thermals that carry malodorous compounds away from the wastewater treatment plant and nearby neighborhoods.

FIGURE 22.2 Atmospheric inversions, inversion. During the evening hours the air cools more quickly than the ground. This results in the entrapment of malodorous compounds immediately above the wastewater treatment plant and nearby neighborhoods.

^ Malodorous compound

FIGURE 22.2 Atmospheric inversions, inversion. During the evening hours the air cools more quickly than the ground. This results in the entrapment of malodorous compounds immediately above the wastewater treatment plant and nearby neighborhoods.

0 Malodorous compound

FIGURE 22.3 Atmospheric inversions, dispersion. If hills or mountains are near the wastewater treatment plant, a cool air mass may move down on the wastewater treatment plant and push the blanket of malodorous compounds into more distant neighborhoods.

0 Malodorous compound

FIGURE 22.3 Atmospheric inversions, dispersion. If hills or mountains are near the wastewater treatment plant, a cool air mass may move down on the wastewater treatment plant and push the blanket of malodorous compounds into more distant neighborhoods.

blanket usually is from the ground level to approximately 100 feet above the wastewater treatment plant.

As the malodors increase in concentration within the cool blanket of air, they began to diffuse away from the wastewater treatment plant into adjacent neighborhoods. The offensive nature of the malodors is enhanced with the presence of high humidity.

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