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Wildfire Smoke Update
for
Monday, August 20, 2012 2:20 PM

Satellite Photos | Locations and Smoke Conditions


Today's Report and Forecast Today's Summary
Air quality is still poor across parts of southwestern Montana this afternoon. Monitoring sites have shown either steady or worsening smoke impacts since this morning’s update. Hamilton and Bozeman have even had hourly particulate concentrations at UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS, and even the most recent update in Hamilton shows long-term UNHEALTHY conditions. These are just points which represent the fact that much of the Bitterroot Valley—especially the southern half—and regions near Bozeman, like Livingston, Ennis, and even near Dillon and Wisdom, are seeing very high smoke concentrations, even over the short-term (one-hour concentrations). Long-term concentrations (8 or 24 hours) are also very high in these places, and even elsewhere, like Butte, near Missoula, in the Swan Valley, and the Mission Valley, where long-term smoke exposures are MODERATE to UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS. It is believed that long-term exposure to smoke, even at lower concentrations, has a worse cumulative effect than very short exposures. In times like these, where you can see and smell smoke very clearly, it is best to remain indoors during the smoke event, or at least, do not physically exert yourself outdoors. For more information on how to protect yourself, please refer back to the main Wildfire Smoke Update page (“Wildfire Smoke Updates Home” link above), and find other links on visibility and smoke, health effects categories, and recommendations for outdoor events.

If you refer to the colorful smoke analysis image below, which is the smoke analysis from yesterday, you can see where most of this smoke came from. There are many, many wildfires in eastern Idaho, just across the border from Ravalli County, as well as other, very large fires in central Idaho. Smoke production was high again yesterday, and atmospheric winds carried heavy smoke across the southwest region of Montana, where it remains this afternoon. In general, though, there is a thin layer of smoke and haze over the entire state at the very least, although this is not causing air quality problems. There are no Red Flag Warnings or Fire Weather Watches issued for today across Montana, but the weather remains hot and dry today, with relative humidities already dipping below 25% and 20% across much of the state. If fires continue to burn wildly today, smoke impacts will not ease up at least for the next 24 hours. In fact, air quality may even temporarily get worse in the GOOD areas tomorrow, as a weather system and cold front are expected across Idaho tomorrow, and across Montana by late Tuesday and into Wednesday. Winds may temporarily increase smoke across southwestern Montana tomorrow afternoon, but the unstable air and chance of rain from the cold front should help to clear out some of the heavy smoke. Visibilities and air quality should be improved by Thursday. Friday should bring yet another cold front, to further help to reduce smoke impacts. At least for the next week, the forecast looks more active in that frequent cold fronts will not only help the air quality, but temperatures will be cooler and more seasonable.
Air quality is still poor across parts of southwestern Montana this afternoon. Monitoring sites have shown either steady or worsening smoke impacts since this morning’s update. Hamilton and Bozeman have even had hourly particulate concentrations at UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS, and even the most recent update in Hamilton shows long-term UNHEALTHY conditions.. These are just points which represent the fact that much of the Bitterroot Valley—especially the southern half—and regions near Bozeman, like Livingston, Ennis, and even near Dillon and Wisdom, are seeing very high smoke concentrations, even over the short-term (one-hour concentrations). Long-term concentrations (8 or 24 hours) are also very high in these places, and even elsewhere, like Butte, near Missoula, in the Swan Valley, and in the Mission Valley, where long-term smoke exposures are MODERATE to UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS. Air quality is expected to stay generally poor in these areas for the rest of the evening, as weather conditions remain generally the same and fires in Idaho continue to burn uncontained.
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. Clouds are starting to show up over the mountains, which are obstructing the view of smoke over the region. 

This is the visible satellite image from 1:30 this afternoon. Clouds are starting to show up over the mountains, which are obstructing the view of smoke over the region.


 
This is the webcam in Hamilton this afternoon. Smoke seems to have increased in the area since I posted this morning’s webcam image, which is consistent with the increase in particulate concentrations (the basis for wildfire smoke) in Hamilton.

This is the webcam in Hamilton this afternoon. Smoke seems to have increased in the area since I posted this morning’s webcam image, which is consistent with the increase in particulate concentrations (the basis for wildfire smoke) in Hamilton.


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  Hamilton B24
  Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups  Butte B8
Bozeman B24, B8
West Yellowstone B24
  Moderate

 Frenchtown B24, B8 

  Good

 Libby
Flathead Valley
Seeley Lake
Missoula
Helena
Great Falls
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.