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Wildfire Smoke Update
for
Tuesday, August 14, 2012 3:20 PM

Satellite Photos | Locations and Smoke Conditions


Today's Report and Forecast Today's Summary
There is a slight gap between the huge amount of smoke produced yesterday in Idaho, which is currently sitting over Wyoming, and today’s round of smoke produced by the same Idaho fires. However, this lull in the smoke was not long enough to help clear the smoke in southwestern Montana. It has remained very smoky there and UNHEALTHY, from the Bitterroot Valley to the Paradise Valley. Areas to the north and east of this region are UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS or MODERATE. Although the air quality is not as bad near the ground in west-central Montana, the smoke is heavy enough to block out some of the mountains over 15 miles away. Northwestern and most of eastern Montana are still GOOD this afternoon. Red Flag Warnings are still in effect through tonight due to gusty winds and low relative humidities, which is precisely what we are seeing. Winds are gusting over 20 mph from the west across much of the state, and relative humidities below 15% are common this afternoon. A cold front is forecasted to impact the state late this evening and through the night. This cold front will come from the north and northwest this evening. Cold air will start to spill into the Golden Triangle off the Rocky Mountain Front first, with the cooler air pouring into northwestern Montana shortly after. The front will move generally south and southeast through the night. Winds will get a little stronger as the front passes, and the wind will shift where it will come out of the north. Rain and some thunderstorms are possible tonight with this cold front. This front should greatly help to clear out some of this smoke. Late tonight and for the entire day tomorrow, winds will come mostly from the north, so those fires along eastern Idaho should not blow smoke west into Montana. The much cooler weather, with some rain, and much higher humidities will slow our fires. Smoke from the fires between Great Falls and the Swan Valley may push south into Seeley Lake, the Ovando Valley, and the Helena Valley this evening, but as the smoke tapers off, good dispersion should help to get rid of that smoke.

Wednesday will be a cool, fall-like day. If this is your kind of weather, get out and enjoy it because by Thursday, we start another warm-up until we are back into the 90s by the weekend. We are looking at another period of hot, dry weather, with the potential to reactivate wildfires and smoke production.
Southwestern Montana and the Bitterroot Valley are still UNHEALTHY this afternoon. Heavy smoke is still being produced in Idaho today and blowing to the southeast over that portion of our state. The smoke becomes UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS near Lolo and Butte, and MODERATE near Missoula, Helena, and Bozeman. Elsewhere, air quality is generally GOOD. Winds are blowing strong form the west this afternoon, with low relative humidities, enforcing the Red Flag Warnings that are in effect through tonight. A cold front is on its way, and is currently near Calgary, Alberta, and heading south/southeast.
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 1:30 this afternoon. Most of Wyoming is covered in heavy smoke this afternoon from yesterday’s fires in Idaho. Today, we see those same three, distinct smoke plumes coming out of eastern and central Idaho, which has caused poor air quality in parts of southwestern Montana. 

This is the visible satellite image from 1:30 this afternoon. Most of Wyoming is covered in heavy smoke this afternoon from yesterday’s fires in Idaho. Today, we see those same three, distinct smoke plumes coming out of eastern and central Idaho, which has caused poor air quality in parts of southwestern Montana.


 
Conditions have not improved much at the Big Hole Pass since I posted the same webcam image this morning.

Conditions have not improved much at the Big Hole Pass since I posted the same webcam image this morning.


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. Green represents thin smoke, yellow is moderate smoke, and pink is dense smoke. 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  West Yellowstone B24
Hamilton B24
  Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups  Butte B24, B8
  Moderate

 Bozeman B24, B8
Missoula B24, B8
Frenchtown B24, B8, B1
Flathead Valley B24
 

  Good

 Libby
Seeley Lake
Helena
Billings
Sidney
Great Falls
 

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.