Wildfire Smoke Updates Home | Archived Wildfire Smoke Updates | Today's Air

Wildfire Smoke Update
for
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 8:00 AM

Satellite Photos | Locations and Smoke Conditions


Today's Report and Forecast Today's Summary
Northwestern Montana hasn’t really seen wildfire smoke all summer until late yesterday evening and this morning. Current, hourly smoke exposures in Libby, the Flathead Valley, Missoula, Seeley Lake, and Great Falls are all GOOD, but elevated smoke concentrations for the last few days have put all but Libby at UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS, with Libby sitting at MODERATE. This means that if you were to go outside right now in any of those cities, you would breathe GOOD air, but if you had been outside for the last, full 24 hours or more, your cumulative exposure to smoke would be MODERATE to UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS. The valleys on either side of Missoula also have locally poor air quality. In Frenchtown to the north, hourly exposures have been GOOD for the last four hours, but long-term exposure is UNHEALTHY. In Hamilton, and down the entire Bitterroot Valley, hourly smoke concentrations have been increasing all morning and are currently MODERATE; long-term exposures are UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS. A lot of that Idaho smoke, as well as smoke from California and other western states, has blown over and drained into this region of northwestern Montana. Montana also has its own large fire to the southeast near Roundup, where the air northeast of Billings is MODERATE, and UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS closer to the fire. Everywhere else across the state, air quality is GOOD.

Red Flag Warnings are all over the state today except for northwestern Montana, and are in effect from noon today until midnight. Red Flag Warnings are also over parts of central Idaho, where some of those large fires are currently burning. Some gusty winds, low relative humidity values, and very hot temperatures are in store for us today, which has caused great fire weather concern. As the air heats up this afternoon, the atmosphere has a great way of elevating some of that smoke off of the ground and high into the air, so at least for a while, we may see some relief in the ground-level air quality impacts from smoke. However, with such dangerous fire weather today, fires in Idaho and Montana have the potential for extreme activity and large smoke production. Winds will blow mostly from the southwest to the northeast today, so once again, western Montana—and especially the Bitterroot Valley—is right downwind of Idaho fires. Towns between I-94 and Fort Peck Lake may see smoke from the Delphia fire east of Roundup. The Mission Valley may stay smoky as the West Garceau fire is not yet fully contained, and some of this smoke will affect the Flathead Valley. Smoke may affect the Ovando Valley, with two fires to its southwest. Finally, there are still several fires in the Helena National Forest/Scapegoat/Bob Marshall area, which may blow smoke towards Great Falls and the golden triangle off the Rocky Mountain Front. All of today’s potential smoke impacts depend on the fire activity, but with the dangerous fire weather expected today, it is very possible. There will be another update this afternoon with an update on fire activity, smoke, and a forecast. This web page will also be updated throughout the day if conditions suddenly change.
See "Today's Report and Forecast" (left). There will be another update this afternoon with an update on fire activity, smoke, and a forecast. This web page will also be updated throughout the day if conditions suddenly change.
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 water vapor satellite image from 6:00 this morning, courtesy of the National Weather Service. The orange and black colors indicate very dry air and the white, blue, and pink indicate moist air in the atmosphere. As you can see, the air over Montana is very dry this morning, and with wind blowing in from the southwest, we will only continue to see that very dry air, which will be dangerous for wildfires. Also as a side note, down in the Gulf of Mexico, you can clearly see Tropical Storm Isaac, which should become a Hurricane in the next couple of hours. 

This is the water vapor satellite image from 6:00 this morning, courtesy of the National Weather Service. The orange and black colors indicate very dry air and the white, blue, and pink indicate moist air in the atmosphere. As you can see, the air over Montana is very dry this morning, and with wind blowing in from the southwest, we will only continue to see that very dry air, which will be dangerous for wildfires. Also as a side note, down in the Gulf of Mexico, you can clearly see Tropical Storm Isaac, which should become a Hurricane in the next couple of hours.


 
This is a view of the Ovando Valley this morning. Weather stations along HWY 200 indicate that the relative humidity is almost 100% in this area, so some of this haze is due to water vapor, but the “dirty” and red-ish color is from smoke.

This is a view of the Ovando Valley this morning. Weather stations along HWY 200 indicate that the relative humidity is almost 100% in this area, so some of this haze is due to water vapor, but the “dirty” and red-ish color is from smoke.





 




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  Frenchtown B24--1 hour is GOOD
  Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups  Flathead Valley B24
Great Falls B24
Seeley Lake B24
Missoula B24
--all the above are GOOD at 1 hour--

Hamilton B24, B8
  Moderate

 Libby B24 

  Good

 Helena
Butte
Bozeman
West Yellowstone
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.