While the latest winter storms are dropping more snow on the state, the winds that carried them in have helped push stagnant air out of Iowa. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources reported at the end of last week that pollutants in the air were reaching near E-P-A levels of unhealthy air.
The D-N-R’s Mindy Kralicek says winter storms help push the bad air out. Kralicek says it was almost like there was a cap of stagnant air over the state, just hovering until the wind pushed it out. Kralicek says while the stagnant air can happen in the winter, warmer temperatures are most often the cause.
Kralicek says we see that type of air more often in the summertime, and that’s generally when they have the most concern and hold their public awareness campaigns. Kralicek says there are some unusual things that sometimes occur when we get smog in the winter. She says when it’s real foggy and water droplets near the freezing point, they capture ammonia and nitric acid and give rise to fine particles of made of ammonium nitrate.
Ammonium nitrate is a component of fertilizer, and is used to make anhydrous ammonia, which in turn is used to make meth. "So that’s kind of a unique thing that happens in the wintertime," Karlicek says. Overall Karlicek says Iowa’s air has been relatively clean throughout this year. Kralicek says Iowa is generally speaking under the cap of what the E-P-A considers good air quality. You can learn more about the air quality in Iowa and other states on-line at the E-P-A’s website .