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Wildfire Smoke Update
Thursday, May 30, 2019 10:16 AM

Satellite Photos | Locations and Smoke Conditions

Today's Report and Forecast Today's Summary
It seems hard to believe given all the rain we have seen in Montana over the past week, but the haze visible in many parts of Montana this morning is from wildfire smoke. Thankfully, the fires are not in Montana, but rather the smoke is traveling down from northern Alberta. This smoke is causing air quality to reach MODERATE conditions at times in much of northwest Montana, including Libby, Thompson Falls, Frenchtown, Missoula, and Seeley Lake. Skies are hazy but air quality is generally GOOD in areas east of the Divide.

The largest fires in Canada are burning in the northwest portion of Alberta. Satellite imagery below shows a significant amount of smoke coming off those fires. While most of this smoke has remained in Canada, a plume of light smoke moved over Montana yesterday. Unfortunately, we will likely see more smoke move into Montana over the next 24 hours as transport winds over the fires turn northerly and heads directly towards Montana (see the smoke forecast image below). By tomorrow afternoon, we will likely see widespread hazy skies over Montana, with MODERATE air quality. Areas along the Rocky Mountain Front may see impacts reaching UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS at times. Fortunately, the scattered thunderstorms that are expected across the region on Thursday and Friday should help improve air quality for brief periods as the rain helps clear out the smoke.

By Saturday, transport winds over the fires will become westerly once again, redirecting the smoke from Alberta away from Montana. As a ridge builds over Montana, some smoke may remain trapped in valleys overnight due to light winds and stable air. Conditions should improve each afternoon as daytime heating helps lift out the smoke and slowly clear out the haze.
Early season wildfire smoke originating in northern Alberta is causing hazy skies and moderate air quality in parts of Montana this morning. Smoke from these fires will continue to impact Montana through Friday, possibly getting worse, before improving over the 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

Satellite imagery this morning shows smoke from Canada.  

Satellite imagery this morning shows smoke from Canada.
Source: CIRA and NOAA

Smoke forecasts for tomorrow morning show smoke moving down into Montana.

Smoke forecasts for tomorrow morning show smoke moving down into Montana.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada

On Flathead Lake, skies are a little hazy.

On Flathead Lake, skies are a little hazy.

Source: Weather Underground 

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
  Very Unhealthy  
  Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups  

Seeley Lake
Thompson Falls


 All other reporting locations. 

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.