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UPDATED: Air Quality Forecast for Weekend

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UPDATE: Friday, September 15, 2017

Air quality has been slowly improving this morning, but continued NE winds could transport additional wildfire smoke (PM-2.5) to our area from Montana today and Saturday. Early indications are that the smoke (PM-2.5) should be less intense than yesterday, but conditions probably won’t improve a lot more until the next weather system arrives later on Sunday, bringing breezy winds and a good chance of rain to help clear things out. The breezy winds may bring a little more dust (PM-10) to the area, and the return to SW winds on Sunday may transport a little more wildfire smoke (PM-2.5) from fires in the Cascade Range. Depending on the winds and fire activity, air quality could return to the AQI-Unhealthy range later on Friday, but should be in the AQI-Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups range on Saturday before hopefully reaching the AQI-Moderate range on Sunday and Monday.

Air Quality May Reach Unhealthy on Thursday, September 14 and Friday, September 15, 2017

Air monitoring forecasters at Spokane Clean Air say that Spokane will likely be in the Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups range of the Air Quality Index (AQI) and may reach Unhealthy at times on Thursday, September 14 and Friday, September 15. 

The low pressure system that is providing our northerly winds and cooler temperatures will transport a little more wildfire smoke (PM-2.5) to our area from Montana and Canada, but thanks to a significant reduction in fire activity it should not be severe.

Increased winds and good daytime ventilation should help to disperse the wildfire smoke (PM-2.5), but as the surface winds shift to a NW flow this afternoon we could see air quality worsen.  Depending on the winds and fire activity, air quality could reach the AQI-Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups range and Unhealthy at times Thursday and Friday.

Spokane Region Air Quality Forecast for Monday, September 11, 2017

Expect the improved air quality to continue as a ridge of high pressure brings mostly sunny skies and warmer temperatures with light winds through Tuesday. Although poor night-time ventilation and light winds will cause wildfire smoke (PM-2.5) to accumulate especially during the overnight hours, daytime conditions should allow for better smoke dispersion.   Air quality may reach well into the AQI-Moderate range at times on Monday and Tuesday.

Below is a chart from this morning that shows the dramatic impact of the winds transporting wildfire smoke into our region on Labor Day. The Spokane-area started out Labor Day in the high Moderate AQI category and within a matter of hours the AQI value quickly rose through Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups to a high Very Unhealthy category. And, for a few hours smoke levels were so high that we entered the Hazardous AQI category.

Click here for an air quality guide to school activities and outdoor sports. Click here for information on the Air Quality Index (AQI).

 

Friday, Sept. 1, 2017

Another ridge of high pressure will bring summer-like weather to the region, with sunny skies and above-average temperatures through Tuesday. The high pressure will also limit ventilation in the region, creating a persistent smoky haze as wildfire smoke (PM2.5) accumulates, especially during the evening and morning hours due to stronger night-time inversions. The increased temperatures will also cause higher levels of ozone. Although air quality should be in the AQI-Moderate range most of the time, changes in wind direction and smoke (PM2.5) from regional wildfires may allow air quality to worsen at times. Air quality could reach the AQI-Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups range briefly Friday through Monday before improving to the AQI-Moderate range on Tuesday.

Are you curious how the 2017 wildfire season compares with the 2015 wildfire season, or other PM2.5 and PM10 air pollution events? Check out this chart tracking PM days above AQI-moderate levels, from 1999 through August 31, 2017. Some key differences between the 2015 and 2017 wildfire season for the Spokane County area are:
1) 2015 highest reading AQI 171, 2017 highest reading AQI 154;
2) 2015 had 13 days in AQI orange or red categories, 2017 had 10 days in AQI orange or red catagories.
3) The 2015 wildfire smoke impact were localized, sudden and severe, the 2017 wildfire smoke impacts are multi-state and prolonged.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The next two days should be sunny and a little less smoky as last night’s cold front and today’s increased westerly winds have helped to push some of the wildfire smoke (PM-2.5) out of our area. Although air quality should be much improved, it is likely that shifting winds will bring additional wildfire smoke from the active fires in the Cascades.   Air quality should improve during the day today, but poor overnight ventilation and light winds will allow levels of fine particulates (PM-2.5) to increase tonight and again on Friday. Depending on the fire activity and which way the wind sends the smoke plumes, air quality may reach the AQI- Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups range at times on Thursday and Friday.

Tuesday, August 14, 2017

After 12 days (August 2 - 13, 2017) of smoky air, the Spokane region breathed a sigh of relief on Monday, August 13, 2017. A change in weather patterns and a shift in wind allowed smoke to be blown out of our area. As the chart shows, the change in weather allowed for a quick and drastic improvement in Spokane’s air quality.

In total, August’s wildfire smoke activity (as of 8/15/17) has accounted for seven days in the Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (orange) range and two days in the Unhealthy (red) range of the Air Quality Index (AQI). While individual hours of the AQI may show higher levels of air pollution, the official daily AQI is calculated based on the 24-hour data (midnight to midnight, unweighted).

Date

24-hour average micrograms/cubic meter of air

Converted to 
Daily AQI Value AQI 

Category

AQI
Category

8/4/17

62.0

154

Unhealthy/Red

8/5/17

49.8

136

Unhealthy for Some/Orange

8/6/17

42.9

119

Unhealthy for Some/Orange

8/7/17

43.8

121

Unhealthy for Some/Orange

8/8/17

41.4

113

Unhealthy for Some/Orange

8/9/17

54.9

149

Unhealthy for Some/Orange

8/10/17

54.4

148

Unhealthy for Some/Orange

8/11/17

55.5

151

Unhealthy/Red

8/12/17

38.8

109

Unhealthy for Some/Orange

With increased and new fire activity, Spokane will likely see wildfire smoke in the air again. Forecasters expect wind patterns to once again bring smoke from British Columbia wildfires back into our region this week. This may begin as early as Tuesday, August 15, 2017. The expected smoke, however, will likely not be as bad as what Spokane experienced August 2 – 13, 2017.

Additional information about preparing for wildfire smoke can be found here.

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