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Wildfire Smoke Update
for
Wednesday, August 29, 2012 9:15 AM

Satellite Photos | Locations and Smoke Conditions


Today's Report and Forecast Today's Summary
With such dangerous fire weather yesterday, fire behavior was extraordinary and the smoke plumes that were seen on satellite images before sunset were incredible. The satellite image below is from 6:45 last night (August 28). The massive smoke plumes from Idaho are unmistakable. The smoke plume down in Yellowstone is also very large. A few new fires were reported yesterday, and you can see their smoke plumes: on near Butte, one near Bozeman, and one near Red Lodge. This massive smoke plume traveled east and northeast overnight. Smoke is very visible in the air in many places across the state this morning. Red sunsets, I’m sure, were the norm this morning. Visibility is reduced and air quality is poor in many locations. It may not be a surprise, given the satellite image below, that the Bitterroot Valley has the worst reported air quality this morning. The last hour was UNHEALTHY, and cumulative exposure to smoke is also UNHEALTHY. To the northwest, air quality has mostly improved to GOOD and visibility is much better, even as far south as Missoula, thanks to a dry cold front that has been moving across the state. Air quality has improved in the Swan Valley in the past few hours. Long-term, cumulative smoke exposure in Great Falls, Helena, and Bozeman is MODERATE. Out east, air quality is mostly GOOD, with some pockets of MODERATE and UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS near the fires.

Red Flag Warnings are all over the state again today except for the far northwest corner. These warnings are in effect until midnight, and we are expecting another day of strong winds and low relative humidities. High atmospheric winds will push the big smoke plumes to the northeast again today, but closer to the surface, winds behind the cold front will be from the west and northwest, so smoke that is closer to the ground will blow east and southeast. This still puts much of western Montana downwind of fires in Idaho, and depending on the fire activity, southwestern Montana (like Butte) may see decreased air quality this afternoon.

There will be another update this afternoon as the wildfire activity picks up, and how the cold front is changing the air quality conditions as well. I will have a forecast for the rest of the week and a glimpse into the holiday weekend.
See "Today's Report and Forecast" (left). There will be another update this afternoon as the wildfire activity picks up, and how the cold front is changing the air quality conditions as well. I will have a forecast for the rest of the week and a glimpse into the holiday weekend.
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 6:45 last night (August 28). This was the smoke that we were dealing with late yesterday evening and overnight, and now this morning, a cold front is pushing that smoke to the east.  

This is the visible satellite image from 6:45 last night (August 28). This was the smoke that we were dealing with late yesterday evening and overnight, and now this morning, a cold front is pushing that smoke to the east.


 
This is a webcam image from the Big Hole Pass, and the smoke is very heavy and very distinct along the horizon.

This is a webcam image from the Big Hole Pass, and the smoke is very heavy and very distinct along the horizon.





 




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
  Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups  Missoula B24 (1 hour GOOD)
Frenchtown B24 (1 hour GOOD)
Seeley Lake B24 (1 hour GOOD)
  Moderate

 Libby B24 (1 hour GOOD)
Flathead Valley B24 (1 hour GOOD)
Great Falls B24 (1 hour GOOD)
Helena B8 (1 hour GOOD)
Bozeman B24 (1 hour GOOD)
 

  Good

 Sidney
Billings
West Yellowstone
Butte
 

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.