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Wildfire Smoke Update
for
Monday, August 12, 2013 8:52 AM

Satellite Photos | Locations and Smoke Conditions


Today's Report and Forecast Today's Summary
Another round of smoke blew across Montana yesterday evening and overnight from wildfires from Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. That smoke affected the air quality in several valleys across western Montana, including the Missoula, Bitterroot, and Flathead Valleys. Cumulative particulate concentrations, when averaged over the last 24-hours, are UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS in Missoula, Frenchtown, and Hamilton. However, if you were to step outside in any of these locations this morning, the air quality you would experience would be GOOD. In fact, hourly particulate concentrations have dropped throughout the very early morning hours and most have been recorded as GOOD. In the Flathead Valley, cumulative particulate concentrations have just reached MODERATE levels, but hourly concentrations have all been GOOD. The smoke that affected these areas overnight has moved east and is currently sitting over central Montana. The webcam image below shows the back end of this line of smoke leaving the Helena Valley very early this morning. This smoke is very high in the atmosphere and air quality under this plume is GOOD, which combined with yesterday’s plume, stretches across the eastern 2/3 of the state.

Today’s weather will be very similar to what we have seen for the last few days now. This smoke that is sitting in the upper-atmosphere will continue to blow east across the state. Skies will look hazy and overcast under this plume, but air quality should remain generally GOOD at ground level. Air quality has improved overnight in far western Montana, and this will continue through the morning and very early afternoon hours. Hourly particulate concentrations will remain GOOD during this time at all locations. By the afternoon, clouds will start to develop over the mountains which will turn into another round of afternoon/evening thunderstorms. At the same time, smoke plumes will start to rise and move east from Idaho and the Missoula, Bitterroot, and Big Hole Valleys will see another round of afternoon smoke. With so many factors that can affect air quality, conditions can change rapidly. In general, hourly particulate concentrations should range from MODERATE up to levels that are UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS. Cumulative particulate concentrations will stay near UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS. The Flathead and Mission Valleys may also see short periods of MODERATE air quality later this afternoon, while the rest of the state continues to see GOOD air quality, even when smoke is visible high in the air.
There will be another update later this afternoon with an update and forecast on air quality around Montana.
Residents near active fires and under plumes aloft need to remain aware of current conditions and use the visibility guidelines to guide their activity decisions as the situation changes.

Kristen Martin
State Air Quality Meteorologist
Air Resource Management Bureau
Montana Department of Environmental Quality
Phone: (406) 444-0283
Email: kmartin@mt.gov




This is the visible satellite image from 7:40 this morning. In this image, you can tell the difference between clouds and smoke. You can see clouds across central Idaho and Wyoming and they appear to be very “lumpy.” However, across roughly 2/3 of the eastern part of Montana, this light gray color appears more smooth. This is because this is wildfire smoke that is very high in the atmosphere. 

This is the visible satellite image from 7:40 this morning. In this image, you can tell the difference between clouds and smoke. You can see clouds across central Idaho and Wyoming and they appear to be very “lumpy.” However, across roughly 2/3 of the eastern part of Montana, this light gray color appears more smooth. This is because this is wildfire smoke that is very high in the atmosphere.


 
This webcam overlooking the Helena Valley shows the back end of that large smoke plume. Just below the sun, there is a definite line between the reddish-orange smoke and the clear blue sky above.

This webcam overlooking the Helena Valley shows the back end of that large smoke plume. Just below the sun, there is a definite line between the reddish-orange smoke and the clear blue sky above.





 




The smoke report below compares particulate levels where information is available to MDEQ’s Health Effects Categories. Real time particulate information is currently available in most of the larger urban areas from several different sources including: DEQ run PM-10 BAMS and PM2.5 BAMS, NWS ASOS visibility monitors, and USFS remote access Nephelometers and BAMS. These advisories represent conditions between midnight and 8 AM and may change substantially throughout the day.

Locations and severity of forest fire smoke reports since midnight of the date above at reporting stations.
Health Effects Categories City
  Hazardous  
  Very Unhealthy  
  Unhealthy  
  Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups  Frenchtown B24
Missoula B24
Hamilton B24
(all hourly concentrations are GOOD)
  Moderate

 Flathead Valley B24
(hourly concentrations are GOOD)
 

  Good

 Libby
Seeley Lake
Helena
Butte
Bozeman
West Yellowstone
Great Falls
Billings
Birney
 

B1(x) One-hour BAM value (number of values)
B8(x) Eight-hour average BAM
B24 24 hour  average BAM value
Vis(x) Visibility value (number of hours)
Vis(am/pm) Visibility value from twice/day reporting stations

Local impacts in areas immediately adjacent to active fires are expected to exceed some or all of the advisory levels.  DEQ recommends the use of local visibility guidelines to evaluate possible health risks and make informed activity decisions.