National politics put California’s air quality in the crosshairs

Smoke settles in the Kaweah canyon, a common occurrence in the fall season due to stagnant air flow.

The [San Joaquin Valley’s] pollution problems emerge from a toxic mix of human activity and natural topography. Heavy truck traffic going up and down the state’s inland freeways and agricultural machinery contribute a share of smog and particulates; so do wood-burning stoves, crop fires, and oil and gas extraction by the likes of Chevron, which drills across the land. Pollution from the Bay Area and Sacramento Valley can also waft its way south, sometimes joined by wildfire smoke from the nearby Sierras. Ringed by mountain ranges, the San Joaquin Valley is prone to temperature inversions that trap these pollutants, especially through hot summers and foggy winters.

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