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Wildfire Smoke Update
for
Thursday, August 30, 2012 3:00 PM

Satellite Photos | Locations and Smoke Conditions


Today's Report and Forecast Today's Summary
For yet another day, wildfire smoke is impacting Montana communities and decreasing air quality. In the Bitterroot and Big Hole Valleys, heavy smoke is coming from wildfires in Idaho. Hourly particulate concentrations in Hamilton have been UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS for the last few hours, and cumulative exposures are UNHEALTHY. Idaho smoke is the primary air quality concern here, and it is also spreading northeast into parts of Montana to reduce visibility and giving a smoky color to the sky. Air quality has also been getting worse in Bozeman this afternoon thanks to the Millie fire to the south. Just like Hamilton, hourly particulate concentrations have been UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS and cumulative exposures are UNHEALTHY. Idaho fires, as well as nearby Montana fires, have been affecting air quality in and around Butte, where currently, air quality is UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS. Smoke is still very visible around Helena, Great Falls, and to the northeast, but air quality remains GOOD to MODERATE. As we have seen every afternoon, smoke plumes may grow and quickly decrease air quality downwind late this afternoon and through the night.

The forecast continues to be fairly hot and dry, which is not ideal for wildfire activity, and certainly provides no clear end to wildfire season in the next week. Tomorrow, temperatures will heat up ahead of a cold front tomorrow night through Saturday morning. Atmospheric winds will blow from the southwest, but smoke impacts in southwestern and west-central Montana will depend on fire activity. Limited moisture will blow in to southwestern Montana Friday and last through Saturday. There is a slight chance of afternoon thunderstorms over the mountains on Friday and Saturday in response to this moisture. By Saturday, atmospheric winds for the first half of the day will blow from the south and southwest, which would push smoke to the north and northeast. The usual parts of southwestern and west-central Montana may continue to see smoke from this flow, but northwestern Montana may also see periods of smoke. By the afternoon, the atmospheric winds start to shift around, in tandem with a surface cold front. Winds will be gusty along the cold front, and breezy conditions should last through the afternoon. By the evening, winds should blow directly from the west. This will limit the amount of smoke that all of northern Montana may see, but will keep the smoke concentrated in the Bitterroot Valley and all areas east of wildfires. This sort of west wind in the higher parts of the atmosphere is forecasted to remain Sunday through Tuesday or Wednesday, when another cold front is expected mid-week. Fire season continues on into September this year.
For yet another day, wildfire smoke is impacting Montana communities and decreasing air quality. In the Bitterroot and Big Hole Valleys, heavy smoke is coming from wildfires in Idaho. Hourly particulate concentrations in Hamilton have been UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS for the last few hours, and cumulative exposures are UNHEALTHY. Idaho smoke is the primary air quality concern here, and it is also spreading northeast into parts of Montana to reduce visibility and giving a smoky color to the sky. Air quality has also been getting worse in Bozeman this afternoon thanks to the Millie fire to the south. Just like Hamilton, hourly particulate concentrations have been UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS and cumulative exposures are UNHEALTHY. Idaho fires, as well as nearby Montana fires, have been affecting air quality in and around Butte, where currently, air quality is UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS. Smoke is still very visible around Helena, Great Falls, and to the northeast, but air quality remains GOOD to MODERATE. As we have seen every afternoon, smoke plumes may grow and quickly decrease air quality downwind late this afternoon and through the night.
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 2:30 this afternoon. Clouds are spread across southeastern Montana, and a broad area of heavy smoke is visible near the southern Bitterroot Valley. Smoke plumes are becoming more visible and organized, and with increased fire activity this afternoon, they will likely take the same northeast trek across Montana.  

This is the visible satellite image from 2:30 this afternoon. Clouds are spread across southeastern Montana, and a broad area of heavy smoke is visible near the southern Bitterroot Valley. Smoke plumes are becoming more visible and organized, and with increased fire activity this afternoon, they will likely take the same northeast trek across Montana.


 
This is a detailed visible satellite image from this afternoon. To get your bearings straight, look for the Flathead Lake in the top-center, the Bitterroot Valley to the south, and Canyon Ferry Lake on the right side of the image. Now notice how heavy the smoke is south of the Bitterroot and in Idaho’s valleys.

This is a detailed visible satellite image from this afternoon. To get your bearings straight, look for the Flathead Lake in the top-center, the Bitterroot Valley to the south, and Canyon Ferry Lake on the right side of the image. Now notice how heavy the smoke is south of the Bitterroot and in Idaho’s valleys.


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, B8
Bozeman B24
  Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups  Butte B24, B1
  Moderate

 Great Falls B24
Helena B24
Billings B24
Sidney B24
-All hourly concentrations are GOOD-

West Yellowstone B24(1), B1(1)
 

  Good

 Libby
Flathead Valley
Frenchtown
Missoula
Seeley Lake
 

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.