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Wildfire Smoke Update
for
Thursday, August 9, 2012 3:30 PM

Satellite Photos | Locations and Smoke Conditions


Today's Report and Forecast Today's Summary
Long-term exposures to smoke, measured over 24-hours, has increased to UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS across much of southwest and central Montana this afternoon. However, since this morning’s update, short-term (1-hour average) exposures to smoke across much of these cities has decreased as the air heats up, expands, and elevates some of that smoke away from the ground. What does all of this mean? If you were to walk outside right now, you will probably see GOOD conditions, unless you are in the southern half of the Bitterroot Valley, parts of Beaverhead County, or immediately downwind of any active fire. However, if you were outside for a full day—for example, if you were camping, your cumulative exposure to smoke over one whole day would be worse than an instantaneous exposure. Even if you were outside for only several hours, you might still see MODERATE to UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS smoke impacts, especially in southwestern Montana. Much of eastern and southeastern Montana are also seeing MODERATE to UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS smoke impacts from a broad area of smoke, as well as some smaller nuisance smoke from small fires, ignited by lightning yesterday.

Satellite images today haven’t really shown any smoke plumes from wildfires in our state, but there are several large wildfires in Idaho that are producing a lot of smoke, and so it continues to blow this way. For the rest of the evening, there is a slight chance for isolated thunderstorms, but overall, we will see less active weather, which means that the smoke will stick around. It will still be difficult to see across long distances because of the smoke influence, and overnight, we may see some elevated smoke impacts as the air sinks towards the cooling ground. Tomorrow, we are expecting another weather disturbance which will improve dispersion to help clear some of the smoke that is stuck in western valleys, but the chance for wind and thunderstorms has prompted Fire Weather Watches for the southwest. These Watches may spread to other parts of the state, and may even be upgraded to Red Flag Warnings. The rest of the weekend will be hot and stagnant again under a strong ridge of high pressure. Hot temperatures and low relative humidities will prolong fire concerns, and we may continue to see smoke impacts for the next few days.
Current and nearly-instantaneous air quality around the state is mostly GOOD right now. However, long-term, cumulative exposures to smoke are MODERATE and UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS across much of the southwest region of the state, and even in the southeast. There is a chance for isolated thunderstorms tonight, but overall, there is no large weather system to help remove the smoke tonight. Tomorrow, another weather system will move across the state to help clear some of this smoke, but it has prompted Fire Weather Watches. Gusty winds and thunderstorms may fan current fires and/or create new ones in the state, which would have adverse effects on our air quality again.
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




This is the visible satellite image from 2:45 this afternoon. The southern half of Montana looks like a slightly lighter shade of gray, which is indicative of the broad area of smoke. There is at least one large, smoke-producing fire in central Idaho which is visible on this image. 

This is the visible satellite image from 2:45 this afternoon. The southern half of Montana looks like a slightly lighter shade of gray, which is indicative of the broad area of smoke. There is at least one large, smoke-producing fire in central Idaho which is visible on this image.


 





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  Bozeman B24
Butte B24
Hamilton B24, B8
Seeley Lake B24
Frenchtown B24
Missoula B24
Great Falls B24
  Moderate

 Helena B24, B8
West Yellowstone B24
 

  Good

 Libby
Flathead Valley
Billings
Sidney
 

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.