How the weather could have made the smoke plume from Eastman much worse
The explosion on Eastman Chemical Company's Kingsport campus caused obvious concern in the community for much of the day on Wednesday. In more ways than one, this could have been worse.
One of those ways is in the smoke dispersion, and the weather played a big role in that. If this explosion happened 3 hours sooner, there could have been more of a smoke issue.
When the explosion happened, temperatures were 60-65° at the ground level in Kingsport. The air 4,000 feet up was 57°.
This kind of temperature profile allowed the smoke plume to rise a little bit, before leveling out a little bit higher up.
If the explosion happened at 7 a.m., the temperature profile in the lower layers of the atmosphere would have been much different.
Temperatures at the ground level were in the 40s at 7 a.m., while they were still around 57° just a few thousand feet above.
This is what we call a temperature inversion. That warmer air up top would have blocked the smoke plume from rising, and would have allowed it to spread out (similar to how fog does so on early, cool mornings) at the ground level.
In addition, the calm winds in the area helped to keep the smoke plume confined to the Eastman campus.
Let's also not forget the crews who were working diligently to keep things under control.