A departure from the normal decrease of temperature with increasing altitude. A temperature inversion may be produced, for example, by the movement of a warm air mass over a cool one. Intense surface inversions may form over the land during nights with clear skies and low winds due to the radiative loss of heat from the surface of the earth. The temperature increases as a function of height in this case. Poor mixing of the pollutants generally occurs below the inversion, since the normal convective process which drives the warmer and lighter air at ground level to higher altitudes is interrupted as the rising air parcels encounter the warmer air above. Temperature inversions near the surface are particularly effective in trapping ground level emissions.
PAC, 1990, 62, 2167. 'Glossary of atmospheric chemistry terms (Recommendations 1990)' on page 2197 (https://doi.org/10.1351/pac199062112167)