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Wildfire Smoke Update
for
Wednesday, September 5, 2012 3:40 PM

Satellite Photos | Locations and Smoke Conditions


Today's Report and Forecast Today's Summary
Visibility and air quality are actually getting worse in parts of western and southwestern Montana this afternoon. Smoke plumes are visible again on the satellite image below, but the weather today isn’t ideal for erratic fire behavior. What we have seen recently are strong winds and low relative humidities that fuel fires to grow so large in the afternoons, that smoke is able to rise so high into the atmosphere that very high and fast atmospheric winds carry it from place to place. However today, with less fire activity, the smoke is not rising to these very high levels of the atmosphere, and so it is under the control of the wind direction in the lower parts of the atmosphere. These winds are blowing more from the west than from the northwest at higher levels. Therefore, smoke in Idaho is blowing almost due east and places like Missoula and Helena are seeing smoke impacts this afternoon. Air quality in Missoula has risen to UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS and Helena is trending towards MODERATE. Air quality is generally the same in the Bitterroot, Butte, and West Yellowstone, where air is UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS to UNHEALTHY. To the northwest and along the hi-line, air quality is GOOD. To the east and southeast, air quality is mostly GOOD with some areas of MODERATE smoke.

A cold front is currently forecasted to start making its way across northern Montana this evening, which will continue through the night and into the morning across the south and southeast. Clouds are already starting to build across northern Montana right now, as the cold front is knocking on our door step. Winds will be very strong around the cold front—both in front of it and behind it—and the wind will change direction as the front passes. Throughout the day tomorrow, winds near the surface will blow mostly from the north, so any location south of an active fire is susceptible to smoke impacts. Also throughout the day, those winds that are very high up in the atmosphere will also change direction and will eventually come out of the north. This will reinforce the much cooler temperatures that we are expecting tomorrow, but it will also work to keep most of the smoke from Idaho away from our borders. This should also be true on Friday, but a ridge of high pressure will be building in to the western US. When this happens, we usually see a warming trend (which we will over the weekend), and atmospheric winds start to blow from the southwest. The weather will become more favorable for fire activity, and much of western and central Montana will be “downwind” of the fires again, so it looks likely that we have another smoky weekend in store for much of the state. By Monday into Tuesday, a weather system and cold front will trek across the state, bringing very strong winds and another round of fire danger on Monday. Behind the front and possibly for much of the rest of the week, fire activity will be less and so smoke impacts should be slightly less.
Smoke in Idaho is blowing almost due east and places like Missoula and Helena are seeing smoke impacts this afternoon. Air quality in Missoula has risen to UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS and Helena is trending towards MODERATE. Air quality is generally the same in the Bitterroot, Butte, and West Yellowstone, where air is UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS to UNHEALTHY. To the northwest and along the hi-line, air quality is GOOD. To the east and southeast, air quality is mostly GOOD with some areas of MODERATE smoke.
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 2:45 this afternoon. Smoke plumes in Idaho are visible and blowing west over Montana. Also we see clouds in Canada and to our north, with the cold front approximately across extreme northwestern Montana and the northern Idaho panhandle. This front will continue across the state through tomorrow morning. 

This is the visible satellite image from 2:45 this afternoon. Smoke plumes in Idaho are visible and blowing west over Montana. Also we see clouds in Canada and to our north, with the cold front approximately across extreme northwestern Montana and the northern Idaho panhandle. This front will continue across the state through tomorrow morning.


 
This webcam is at the Gates of the Mountains and looks south across the Helena Valley. We can see a layer of smoke in the air, from fires in and around the Bob Marshall Wilderness and all the way from Idaho.

This webcam is at the Gates of the Mountains and looks south across the Helena Valley. We can see a layer of smoke in the air, from fires in and around the Bob Marshall Wilderness and all the way from Idaho.


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 purple 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
  Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups  West Yellowstone B24
Butte B24, B8
  Moderate

 Bozeman B24, B8, B1 

  Good

 Libby
Flathead Valley
Seeley Lake
Frenchtown B24, B1
Missoula B24, B1
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.