Air Quality Concerns

A composite of two photos showing good visibility within the park (left) and one showing poor visibility within the park (right).
A composite of photos taken in the same location showing air quality differences within the park.  The picture on the left shows visibility of up to 150 miles. The picture on the right shows visibility of less than 3 miles!

National Park Service Photos


Unfortunately, you are correct.

Air pollution is a big concern within the park, affecting park views, plants, animals, streams, soils, and visitors. Even human health is at risk. Most pollution originates outside the park and is created by power plants, industry, and automobiles. The burning of fossil fuels—coal, oil, and gas—causes most of the sulfate pollution. Automobiles account for most of the nitrate pollution. Inadequate pollution control equipment in power plants, factories, and automobiles is the primary problem. Wind currents moving toward the southern Appalachians transport pollutants from urban areas, industrial sites, and power plants located both near and far. The height and physical structure of the mountains, combined with predominant weather patterns, tend to trap and concentrate human-made pollutants in and around the national park.

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Last updated: April 14, 2015

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