Yellowstone’s Invisible Smog


Well, I’m not going to get a cold day for a baseline check against the pre-season calibration curve. So a first final approximation was run on the models. [Blogging will be brief for a time as the computer cranks away and I try to make some sense of the numbers.]

diesel-jeep.jpgTrace elements from various combustion processes are the key to the corridor models and the variations are small – the compounds are too – relatively.

Results from the first final approximation confirm some hypotheses, deny none, and suggest further testing and measurement for others.

With this year’s small increase in snowmobile traffic I now have a basis for comparison to previous “slack year” results. The continued increase in bus, van, coach, and other mass conveyances is also showing some interesting spikes in the trace element analysis.

Without going into great detail, (or stretching the data – yet,) I have some observations to share. These are as far as my contractual stipulations will let me go at this time.

1.} Overall compound, elemental, and particulate densities have risen in the diesel and conventional spectra.

2.} Unburned hydrocarbon and visible spectra indicators are down a significant amount.

3.} The emission levels of diesel combustion byproducts are significant, increasing, and invisible. They include: (excluding the volatile air products such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde: most of the compounds of diesel combustion are found in the gas phase rather than the particulate phase and are) – benzene, formaldehyde, naphthalene, chlorolbenzene, hexavalent chromium, and traces of various mercury – zinc – and lead compounds that exist as singular or multivalent ephemerals.

4.} The gasoline combustion byproducts are, as expected, higher with the increase in additional hours and duration of gasoline engines.

5.} The combined byproduct curves of invisible particulates and volatile air gases are within the predicted ‘significant’ range for daily minimums of toxicity and both adsorption and absorption for pathological results on the coronary artery.

Although research is slim in this area the increase suggests that the combination of diesel and gasoline in winter usage may have significant health affects for park visitors.

diesel-comb-cycle.gif6.} Most of the identified compounds are produced in engines, (both diesel & gasoline,) operating outside their optimal, or design parameters, (for you car nuts this means high RPM inefficiency and low RPM inefficiency; “Over revving,” or “Lugging.”)

This result points to the inappropriate use of automotive engines for conversion vehicles in over-the-snow travel. Although remedies for this are outside the scope of this study at this time, the need for efficient and appropriate winter vehicles is a consideration that has been ignored in the BAT regulations.

The use of contemporary modern vehicle engines designed for automotive vehicles does reduce the suite of emissions under ideal test conditions. Yet, there is neither an engine nor catalytic conversion system that is efficient in the observed results of this study during actual winter travel conditions.

trailer-monitor.jpg7.} The siting of the fixed monitoring stations is a key element in the spurious results of diminished pollutant levels. The transportation corridors are, in effect, linear micro climates that are both produced by, and modified by engine operating conditions; and the time spent by engines in inefficient operation contributes to the particulate and volatile air components of the pollution. In simple terms this means that starting and stopping frequently is a major contributor to the pollution.

The final analysis will be ready in about six weeks – maybe a bit more. I can not be more specific at this time because of contractual agreements. One thing is clear, however; the road to a cleaner Yellowstone area in winter is going to be very, very long if continued use of conventional vehicles modified for over-the-snow travel is the standard. These vehicles are, by their nature – (converted to over-the-snow conveyances,) inefficient – and the pollution will increase as their numbers increase. The same holds true for the Bombardier Snow Bus. The inefficient 1930’s track system can only be improved marginally by the addition of modern gasoline engines.

The simplistic approach to pollution that requires visibility as a standard is wrong. As annoying as the smoke of two cycle combustion is – – – it’s not the most dangerous element in the region adjacent to Yellowstone.


Air pollution used to be defined as something you could see and smell. But as air quality standards have tightened, the air over most localities has gradually cleared. a-uv-gun.gifNevertheless, invisible toxic agents such as ethyl benzene, butadiene and styrene continue to pose risks to public health. These small and invisible agents are increasing in the Yellowstone region.

Much of the data collected for this study is based on the UV detectors developed in England. The system consists of a transmitter that projects a UV (ultraviolet) beam generated by a deuterium lamp across an open path of between 10 – 200 meters to a receiver.

Based on the principle that gases have characteristic “spectral fingerprints,” or in other words absorption lines in the 200 – 300 nanometer UV range. The system uses a patented fourier transform spectrometer to scan the beam for up to 20 toxic and environmentally harmful gases in low parts per billion levels. Although the majority of applications are for fixed installations, the system used here is mobile and can detect transverse as well as linear data. Just aim it like a big radar gun.

Well, it’s late and I’m just plain pooped. More with be forthcoming as time permits.


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