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Rare Smog Leads to Paris Travel Restrictions

By Eric Leister, Meteorologist
March 20, 2014; 5:37 AM ET
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An extended period of dry weather produced by a large area of high pressure centered over northern France forced Paris to enforce restrictions on travel due to increasing amounts of air pollution. However, conditions will continue to improve into the weekend.

Harmful smog hung over the region for the last several days but conditions improved by Thursday.

In a drastic attempt to reduce air pollution, it was announced on Monday that cars with even-numbered license plates were not allowed to be driven in Paris and some surrounding suburbs, according to the Associated Press.

In an effort to enforce the ban, around 700 police officers set up check points across the city, ticketing nearly 4,000 people by midday.

This marked the first time since 1997 that measures to this extreme had to be taken in Paris.

The large area of high pressure that has built over the region for much of March has resulted in no measurable rainfall since March 3 and many days with light winds.

This combination allowed pollutants from automobiles, businesses and agriculture to built up in the atmosphere causing the poor air quality.

Two joggers wearing protective masks run past a Police officer controlling a vehicle on the Concorde square in Paris, Monday, March 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)

A weak storm system passing north of France on Tuesday helped to stir up the atmosphere somewhat allowing restrictions to be lowered; however, high pressure that built back overhead on Wednesday raised the concern for higher-than-normal levels once again.

A powerful cold front blasted across the United Kingdom on Thursday, and ahead of this front, winds increased across France once again helping alleviate air quality issues.

This front will then push through northern France on Friday bringing both gusty winds and rain that will help to rid the region of the recent increase in air pollution.

Thereafter, cooler conditions along with clouds and bouts of showers are expected to persist into the first part of next week. This change in weather pattern should allow pollution levels to remain low.


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