Only you can prevent it

by Andrea Elizabeth

Pollution and beetles are killing the views and the trees at the highest elevations of the Smoky Mountains. It’s a shame.

Air pollution is shrinking scenic views, damaging plants, and degrading high elevation streams and soils in the Great Smoky Mountains. Even human health is at risk. Most pollution originates outside the park and is created by power plants, industry, and automobiles.

Views from scenic overlooks at Great Smoky Mountains National Park have been seriously degraded over the last 50 years by human-made pollution. Since 1948, based on regional airport records, average visibility in the southern Appalachians has decreased 40% in winter and 80% in summer. These degradations in visibility not only affect how far one can see from a scenic overlook, they also reduce how well one can see. Pollution causes colors to appear washed out and obscures landscape features. Pollution typically appears as a uniform whitish haze, different from the natural mist-like clouds for which the Smokies were named.

The burning of fossil fuels produces tiny airborne sulfate particles which scatter light and degrade visibility. Increasingly, visitors no longer see distant mountain ridges because of this haze. Annual average visibility at Great Smoky Mountains National Park is 25 miles, compared to natural conditions of 93 miles. During severe haze episodes, visibility has been reduced to under one mile. Sulfate concentrations increased in the region by 27% from 1984-1999. Electricity-generating power plants are the source of most sulfates. (more here)