Disgusting Air Blankets Valley as Winter Pollution Season Revs Up

Hard to believe we're breathing this soup, isn't it? 

Apart from that disturbing detail, the brown haze lingering below the summit of 2,704-foot Camelback Mountain looked almost pretty near sunset on Sunday evening. The skyscrapers of downtown can barely be seen through the opaque cloud, but winter thermal inversion keeps the mess well below the upper ridge-lines of the Sierra Estrellas, which top out at 4,512.

Surprisingly, the state Department of Environmental Quality Web site showed particulates and most pollutants at "good" levels on Sunday, the exception an "moderate" rating for the tiny, light reflecting PM-2.5 that may have been responsible for the intense weekend haze.

Looking away from the setting sun toward the southeast, the band of smog seems to take on a fouler, grayer color.  

Sure, the brown cloud hovers over the Valley on most days if you look for it. On Sunday, you couldn't miss it. -- Ray Stern

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.