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Wildfire Smoke Update
for
Tuesday, August 20, 2013 4:05 PM

Satellite Photos | Locations and Smoke Conditions


Today's Report and Forecast Today's Summary
After a very smoky morning across much of western and central Montana, air quality has generally improved through early this afternoon. Missoula reached a few hours that were UNHEALTHY, but currently are experiencing GOOD air quality. Conditions in Missoula and the northern Bitterroot Valley are likely to change very rapidly with active fire behavior from the nearby Lolo Creek Complex, so please use the VISIBILITY GUIDELINES to determine air quality at any moment of the day. Downwind from these fires, smoke has lifted and dispersed well out of the Helena Valley throughout the late morning and afternoon. Visibility is great as you can see across the valley now, and hourly particulate concentrations have dropped to GOOD levels. Cumulative concentrations, when averaged over the last 24 hours, are still at levels that are UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS. However, if you expect only short-term exposures outside (minutes to a couple hours), the hourly concentrations will most accurately reflect the air quality and your exposure to wildfire smoke. Likewise in Great Falls, after a smoky morning like Helena, hourly particulate concentrations have also dropped to GOOD levels, with cumulative exposures at UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS. These are just the main locations that have been impacted by the Lolo Creek fires. Elsewhere around the state, air quality has improved to GOOD levels in the Bitterroot Valley, and West Yellowstone has remained GOOD as well. Visibility has improved in Livingston and areas around the Paradise Valley which suggests an improvement in air quality as well.

Tonight, smoke from the Lolo Creek fires will take a very similar path east across the state as it did last night. This means that we can expect to see more smoke over the Helena Valley and Great Falls overnight, though the amount of smoke may be less since the fire has been less active today. Nonetheless, smoke will settle into low-lying areas, causing air quality to return to MODERATE levels overnight and through the morning. Cumulative concentrations will also stay at levels that are UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS overnight and in the morning in Helena and Great Falls. In Missoula, with conditions changing hour-to-hour, cumulative air quality exposures will be at least UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS through tomorrow morning. We will also see another night of smoke impacts in the far southern Bitterroot Valley and Paradise Valley. There will be widespread MODERATE smoke impacts across the rest of southwestern Montana overnight. The northern half of the state, as well as most of eastern Montana, will remain GOOD. Tomorrow, wildfires will not be as active as we have seen in the last couple of days thanks to a slight increase in relative humidity and a decrease in afternoon wind speeds. There will be a very slight chance for isolated thunderstorms to develop over the mountains, particularly across southwestern Montana. The heaviest smoke impacts by tomorrow evening will be in the Missoula area and Paradise Valley. Elsewhere, smoke is expected to be MODERATE to GOOD with less fire activity. Monsoonal moisture will increase across the region on Thursday, increasing the chance for thunderstorm activity. Atmospheric winds will also change direction, from the west-east direction we have seen, to southwest-northeast. Because of this wind shift, less smoke will blow into the Helena and Great Falls area on Thursday night. Winds will blow even stronger out of the southwest on Friday with yet another increase in the chance for thunderstorms. Helena and Great Falls should not be downwind of the Lolo fires at all on Friday or Saturday, so air quality should become GOOD again.
After a very smoky morning across much of western and central Montana, air quality has generally improved through early this afternoon. Missoula reached a few hours that were UNHEALTHY, but currently are experiencing GOOD air quality. Conditions in Missoula and the northern Bitterroot Valley are likely to change very rapidly with active fire behavior from the nearby Lolo Creek Complex, so please use the VISIBILITY GUIDELINES to determine air quality at any moment of the day. Downwind from these fires, smoke has lifted and dispersed well out of the Helena Valley throughout the late morning and afternoon. Visibility is great as you can see across the valley now, and hourly particulate concentrations have dropped to GOOD levels. Cumulative concentrations, when averaged over the last 24 hours, are still at levels that are UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS. However, if you expect only short-term exposures outside (minutes to a couple hours), the hourly concentrations will most accurately reflect the air quality and your exposure to wildfire smoke. Likewise in Great Falls, after a smoky morning like Helena, hourly particulate concentrations have also dropped to GOOD levels, with cumulative exposures at UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS. These are just the main locations that have been impacted by the Lolo Creek fires. Elsewhere around the state, air quality has improved to GOOD levels in the Bitterroot Valley, and West Yellowstone has remained GOOD as well. Visibility has improved in Livingston and areas around the Paradise Valley which suggests an improvement in air quality as well.
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 3:30 this afternoon. The smoke plume from the Lolo Creek Complex is not as thick as it was yesterday, but it is still headed in the same direction. The largest smoke plume on this map is actually from the Miner Paradise Complex in the Absaroka Range. 

This is the visible satellite image from 3:30 this afternoon. The smoke plume from the Lolo Creek Complex is not as thick as it was yesterday, but it is still headed in the same direction. The largest smoke plume on this map is actually from the Miner Paradise Complex in the Absaroka Range.


 
Visibility has improved in the Livingston area today as you can now see the Absaroka Mountains again.

Visibility has improved in the Livingston area today as you can now see the Absaroka Mountains again.


This morning’s analysis from NOAA’s satellite services division shows the active fires in Montana and the smoke plumes combining and spreading downwind (the analyzed smoke is based on yesterday’s satellite coverage, the fire detects are based on last nights satellite coverage).

This morning’s analysis from NOAA’s satellite services division shows the active fires in Montana and the smoke plumes combining and spreading downwind (the analyzed smoke is based on yesterday’s satellite coverage, the fire detects are based on last nights satellite coverage).

Red indicates hot spot detected. Grey represents smoke seen by satellite. Fire size is exaggerated for visibility at this scale. To identify individual fires on graphic above go here: http://activefiremaps.fs.fed.us/lg_fire2.php 

This webcam in the Helena Valley also shows an improvement in visibility and air quality this afternoon.

This webcam in the Helena Valley also shows an improvement in visibility and air quality this afternoon.

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  Missoula B8
(last hourly concentration was GOOD)
  Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups  Helena B24
Great Falls B24
(hourly concentrations are GOOD)
  Moderate

 Hamilton B8
Bozeman B8
Lewistown B24
Broadus B24, B8
(hourly concentrations are GOOD)
 

  Good

 Libby
Flathead Valley
Frenchtown
Seeley Lake
Butte
Malta
Billings
West Yellowstone
Sidney
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.