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Wildfire Smoke Update
for
Monday, July 2, 2012 9:45 AM

Satellite Photos | Locations and Smoke Conditions


Today's Report and Forecast Today's Summary
Existing fires continued to burn over the weekend, especially the fires between Butte and Bozeman, and the Ash Creek complex in southeastern Montana. A ridge of high pressure sat over Montana for all of Saturday and early Sunday, providing weather conditions to allow smoke to “spread out” across an area, more so than a definite, cone-shaped plume headed in one direction. Air quality in Billings was slightly impacted by the broad area of smoke in southeastern Montana. On Sunday, a cold front moved through in the late afternoon. The atmosphere was very moist and unstable, spawning several thunderstorms across the state with frequent lightning. One known fire ignited southeast of Helena, with smoke spreading out across Broadwater County. Thankfully though, yesterday’s thunderstorms provided some much-needed rain to many dry parts of the state.

This morning, inversions developed across western valleys, and many were about 2,000 to 3,000 feet above ground level. Some fog can even be seen on visible satellite (below). Those inversions will dissipate by this afternoon, when sunlight gets temperatures above normal for another day. Winds will be fairly light today, except off the Rocky Mountain Front, where High Wind Warnings have been issued. In the plains, surface winds will generally come from the northwest; and to the west, winds will be variable. Relative humidities will drop during the afternoon hours, but should not reach critical levels much less than 20%. Tomorrow should be critical fire day, as Fire Weather Watches have already been issued for much of southern Montana. A cold front is expected, reaching Missoula in the late morning, Helena and Great Falls between 1:00 – 3:00, and far eastern Montana before midnight. There is only a very slight chance for any thunderstorms to develop. Winds along the cold front will be very gusty again from the west. Since the cold front is not anticipated across eastern Montana until after the peak heating of the day, temperatures will get very warm and relative humidities will drop below 15-20%. Relative humidities will also drop in southwestern Montana to around 20%. Tomorrow will be a busy fire day and air quality will be a concern as fires grow and smoke becomes more concentrated downwind of fires. Bozeman, Billings, and many small towns in the southeast counties should watch for smoke impacts tomorrow as fire activity increases. Bozeman and Billings should only see MODERATE particulate concentrations, but towns closer to and downwind of the fires could see UNHEALTHY levels. All other locations should stay GOOD.
Most fires from last week continued to burn this weekend. Billings and Bozeman saw minor smoke impacts. A cold front and thunderstorms passed on Sunday, sparking some new fires, but also providing some much-needed rain to very dry areas. Today, fire weather won’t be much of an issue anywhere. Winds should stay light, except off the Rocky Mountain Front, and relative humidities won’t reach very critical levels. Tomorrow, a cold front is anticipated from late morning through the night, west to east, bringing strong winds and low relative humidities. Thunderstorm chances are slim. The rest of the week looks dry, as we enter into another short warm-up.
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.

Air Quality Bureau
Montana Department of Environmental Quality
Phone: (406) 444-3490
Email: DEQMTSmoke@mt.gov




Visible satellite image from 8:30 this morning. Skies were mostly clear last night, which helped to develop those valley inversions. As I stated above, you can see some valleys that are covered in fog, like around Thompson Falls and the Big Hole Valley.  

Visible satellite image from 8:30 this morning. Skies were mostly clear last night, which helped to develop those valley inversions. As I stated above, you can see some valleys that are covered in fog, like around Thompson Falls and the Big Hole Valley.


 
This is a visible satellite image from 4:45 PM yesterday (Sunday, July 1). Those big, round clouds are thunderstorms that were developing and moving east with the cold front. Those thunderstorms produced a lot of lightning, but also rain to many dry places of southern Montana. In this image, much of the eastern half of the state, plus the western Dakotas and western Nebraska were covered with smoke from Montana and Wyoming.

This is a visible satellite image from 4:45 PM yesterday (Sunday, July 1).  Those big, round clouds are thunderstorms that were developing and moving east with the cold front. Those thunderstorms produced a lot of lightning, but also rain to many dry places of southern Montana. In this image, much of the eastern half of the state, plus the western Dakotas and western Nebraska were covered with smoke from Montana and Wyoming.


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 




Real time particulate information is currently available in most of the larger urban areas from MTDEQ's Today's Air website.

Today's particulate report below compares particulate levels received from DEQ's
reporting stations with MTDEQ’s Health Effect Categories.

Locations and severity of PM 2.5 particulate values over the past 24 hours from the time above.
Health Effects Categories City
  Hazardous  
  Very Unhealthy  
  Unhealthy  
  Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups  Locations immediately near Pony Complex and Ash Creek Complex
  Moderate

  

  Good

 All other sites 

B1(x) One-hour BAM value (number of values)
B8(x) Eight-hour average BAM
B24 24 hour  average BAM value
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.