Chimney Plume Dispersion

In the stable atmosphere case (producing a fanning plume), there is horizontal dispersion at a right angle to the wind due to turbulence and diffusion. In the vertical, dispersion is suppressed by the stability of the atmosphere, so pollution does not spread toward the ground. This results in very low pollution concentrations at the ground.

In unstable air, the plume will whip up and down as the atmosphere mixes around (whenever an air parcel goes up, there must be air going down someplace else to maintain continuity, and the plume follows these air currents). This gives the plume the appearance that it is looping around.

An inversion aloft will trap pollutants underneath it, since the stable inversion prevents vertical dispersion. Pollution released underneath the inversion layer will fumigate the mixed layer. Note that if the smokestack was high enough to release the pollution within the inversion layer, the plume would fan because the plume occurs within stable air.