Air Quality and Visibility

Three white and metal devices stand in a forest of low brush. The devices are various weather and air quality measurement stations.
The rain gauge in the foreground is maintained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS) to collect data on precipitation amounts for the climate record.  The rain gauge in the background (center) is part of the National Atmospheric Depos.

NPS/Peter Densmore

 

Clean Air: A Valuable Resource

The purpose of this park is to protect and conserve resources integral to a landscape of unusual scenic beauty exemplified by high colored and fantastically eroded geological features, including rock fins and spires, for the benefit and enjoyment of the people. Bryce Canyon National Park is famous for its fantastic views, and these wouldn't be possible without clean air. In 1977 the park was designated a Class I air quality area, receiving the highest protection under the Clean Air Act.

Natural resource management specialists monitor atmospheric deposition and particles. The chemical composition of precipitation has been monitored in the park since 1985 as part of the National Atmospheric Deposition Program/National Trends Network (NADP/NTN) network. Bryce Canyon’s visibility monitoring program has documented periods of degraded visibility due to fine particle pollution. Over the past 25 years, the visibility in Bryce Canyon is improving on the clearest days, but not improving on the haziest days. Visibility is often described as a "visual range". Technically the visual range is the distance at which a large black object just disappears from view. However, for visitors at Bryce Canyon visibility is more closely associated with conditions that allow the visitor to recognize and appreciate the form, contrast detail, and color of features, both near and far.

Information on air quality at Northern Colorado Plateau Network parks can be found by visiting the National Park Service's Air page, which displays spatial and temporal trends in ozone, nitrogen deposition, sulfur deposition, and visibility-reducing pollutants in all units of the National Park System.

Both local and distant air pollutant sources affect air quality in Bryce Canyon. The natural resources that are potentially sensitive to air pollution are air quality, water quality, vegetation, wildlife, soils, and visibility. Visibility has been identified as the most sensitive resource in the park. Although visibility in the park is still superior to that in many parts of the country, visibility in the park can be impaired by light-scattering pollutants such as suspended dust and emissions from power plants and vehicles. Another impact to the park’s visitors is light pollution. Bryce Canyon is famous worldwide for its night sky. Light generated by sources within 200 miles of the park can degrade the night sky and negatively impact the night sky experience, including ranger-led astronomy programs.

On a clear day at Bryce Canyon, you can see Navajo Mountain which is 80 miles to the south and on an especially clear day you can look over Grand Canyon to spot Humphrey's Peak which is 150 miles away!

 
Figure_4
The Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments (IMPROVE) sampler has four sampling modules.

NPS/Jim McKnitt

Ozone, sulfur dioxide, dry deposition, and meteorology are collected by the Clean Air Status and Trends (CASTNet) and Gaseous Pollutant Monitoring (GPMN) networks. Ozone is also monitored with passive samplers and portable continuous analyzers. Wet Deposition is monitored through cooperation with National Atmospheric Deposition Program/National Trends Network (NADP/NTN). The Mercury Deposition Network (MDN), part of NADP, collects precipitation samples that are analyzed for mercury. Visibility is monitored as part of the Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments (IMPROVE) program.

Protecting the quality of the air resource is a multi-facetted job that includes active research and monitoring; coordination with other organizations on pollution controls when pollution is likely to affect the park; and education to visitors about the importance of clean, healthy air.

To learn more about air quality in other locations in the United States visit these websites:

http://www.airnow.gov

http://www.epa.gov/airquality

http://airquality.weather.gov/

 
Webcam

Current Air Quality

View from Yovimpa Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah (looking east).

View Webcam

Last updated: July 20, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

P.O Box 640201
Bryce, UT 84764

Phone:

(435) 834-5322
Phones are answered and messages returned as soon as possible as staffing allows.

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