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Wildfire Smoke Update
for
Tuesday, September 11, 2012 9:46 AM

Satellite Photos | Locations and Smoke Conditions


Today's Report and Forecast Today's Summary
Heavy smoke was produced again yesterday evening as expected. The smoke plume was large enough to be seen on satellite images, and it stretched all the way from western Idaho to northwestern North Dakota. The first satellite image below shows this stretch of smoke across Montana. Throughout the evening and overnight, high atmospheric winds started to move the entire smoke plume farther to the east and southeast, which brought some relief to locations that were under that northern edge of the smoke plume. Helena was near that boundary, and after a couple UNHEALTHY hours in the evening, the edge of that smoke moved out of town and hourly smoke concentrations have been GOOD for at least the last 12 hours. Great Falls saw a similar evening spike in smoke, with an overnight clearing. Unfortunately, what was good news for some became bad news for others. Since that smoke moved farther to the south, locations along the southern edge of southwestern Montana that were mostly GOOD yesterday got worse overnight. Bozeman, for example, had three UNHEALTHY hours last night, and have since stayed UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS all morning. The second satellite image below shows the new location of the band of smoke, and you can compare the smoke’s location between the two images.

For today, Red Flag Warnings are across most of the state again, but all of these warnings are east of the Divide. Western Montana and Idaho are not expecting such extreme fire weather conditions, and this is the region that holds the most wildfires. There will be smoke production today, but it should not be as heavy as days past. Also, atmospheric winds should carry the smoke mostly along the southern half of the state. Southwestern Montana, from the Bitterroot Valley to Butte, Bozeman, and past Livingston, should see some smoke today. Missoula and Helena will be near that edge where smoke conditions may be variable throughout the day, with clear periods and smoky periods. Great Falls may also see a little bit of smoke with fires still west of the city in the wilderness. Smoke that is high in the sky across eastern Montana this morning will also move out and skies should become mostly clear by late this afternoon.

There will be another update this afternoon with the latest fire activity, smoke conditions, and a full forecast.
See "Today's Report and Forecast" (left). There will be another update this afternoon with the latest fire activity, smoke conditions, and a full forecast.
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 5:45 yesterday evening, September 10. The outlined area is all the smoke that was in the air at this time. Compare the locations of the smoke above, during the evening, to the locations of the smoke in the image below, from this morning.  

This is the visible satellite image from 5:45 yesterday evening, September 10. The outlined area is all the smoke that was in the air at this time. Compare the locations of the smoke above, during the evening, to the locations of the smoke in the image below, from this morning.


 
This is the visible satellite image from 8:30 this morning. The outlined area is the region of smoke that was mostly produced yesterday. Also note that the valleys of eastern Idaho and southwestern Montana are very visible because smoke has settled there.

This is the visible satellite image from 8:30 this morning. The outlined area is the region of smoke that was mostly produced yesterday. Also note that the valleys of eastern Idaho and southwestern Montana are very visible because smoke has settled there.





 

This webcam near Ennis shows the heavy smoke in the valley this morning. The large mountains just across the valley are not visible at all this morning.

This webcam near Ennis shows the heavy smoke in the valley this morning. The large mountains just across the valley are not visible at all this morning.

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  Hamilton B24
  Unhealthy  Bozeman B24, B8
Butte B24
  Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups  Helena B24
Sidney B24
Great Falls B24
-All hourly concentrations are GOOD-
  Moderate

 Missoula B24
Billings B24
-Both hourly concentrations are GOOD-
 

  Good

 Libby
Flathead Valley
Seeley Lake
Frenchtown
West Yellowstone
 

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.