September 15, 2014

Active Wildfires Continue to Produce Moderate Smoke over Pacific Northwest

Active wildfires continue to plague most of the Pacific Northwest, brewing large plumes of smoke which in turn are dampening air quality in the region. Light to medium wildfire smoke can be seen looming over Washington state, Oregon, Idaho, Northern California and Nevada (NOAA HMS, top right). Light smoke is beginning to spread as far East as the Wyoming and South Dakota border. As a result, unhealthy PM2.5 AQIs are being recorded in these areas (EPA AirNow, top left). Albany, Oregon--for example--is currently experiencing an AQI of 177 (Code Red). The NAAPS Aerosol Model (bottom right) predicts dust to be another cause of elevated PM2.5 AQIs, with packets of dust dotting the central US, reaching 1.26 mg/m^3 in some areas like South Dakota and New Mexico. The model also predicts sulfates to be the leading cause of elevated AOD levels in the Southeast, which could possibly help explain the Moderate AQIs over the region. The MODIS Terra image below (bottom left) shows elevated AOD levels over the sites of these wildfires containing the most smoke concentrations, namely central Washington state.

September 14, 2014

Smoke from Happy Camp and July Complex Fires Impacts Air Quality in Oregon and California

An area of smoke from the Happy Camp and July complex fires in northwest California was seen drifting to the north and east across northern California, Oregon,Idaho and Wyoming. Southwesterly winds increase over the region impacting the Ft. Jones, Yreka, and Klamath River communities, upstream of Happy Camp fires. The National Weather Service has issued a RED FLAG WARNING for the state of Oregon as a surface thermal trough will remain near the Oregon coast range and southwest Washington lowlands through Tuesday. The extremely low humidity, combined with the hot and breezy winds make conditions favorable for the development of new wildfires or the spread of existing ones. The smoke is the source of the high AOD values in today's MODIS Aqua retrievals.

The air quality over this region was affected by the presence of smoke from these wildfires. Today's PM2.5 concentrations in Oregon and northern California reached Code Red AQI levels (Unhealthy), as shown in the AQI animation.

September 12, 2014

Smoke in Northwest

The EPA AQI loop, below left, shows a region of Moderate AQI in the Pacific Southwest into the Pacific Northwest, with many areas reaching Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups and some Unhealthy. Other patches of Moderate AQI appear in the Mississippi Valley, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, Rocky Mountains, and northern Plains. The image below right combines the HMS smoke product with the AFM Large Incident locations and shows smoke drifting east and southeast from fires in Oregon and northern California. These fires include the Happy Camp and July Complexes discussed in earlier posts. Also seen are patches of smoke in southern California and western Georgia.

The NRL NAAPS column totals, below left, show sulfates along the East Coast and into the Mississippi Valley that might be responsible for the higher AQIs in these regions. The NWS Ozone image, below right, indicates higher concentrations of ozone, which might be the main cause of the degraded air quality in this region.

September 11, 2014

Fires in California continue

HMS reported that the Happy Camp and July complex fires continued today with moderate to dense smoke moving to the south and southwest across northwest California and into the Pacific. A new fire erupted this afternoon just north of Redding in northern California with moderate to dense smoke moving to the south southwest. The Meadow fire near Yosemite was generating light to locally moderate smoke that was drifting to the west into the central valley. Very light remnant smoke from the past few days was observed over much of northern and central California and extending eastward into central Nevada and Utah. The smoke from the aforementioned fires in Northern California were seen by MOODIS-Terra (top left). The air quality has worsened due to the smoke in this region. EPA/AirNow reported unhealthy PM2.5 levels in Northern California as well as in the San Joaquin Valley (top right).
Finally, Aerosol Optical depth carried by MODIS also detected high aerosol loadings in the fires regions due to the smoke (top left). The Air quality in the rest of the country remained good.

September 9, 2014

Happy Camp Complex Fire escalates near CA/OR border.

The current loop of the EPA AQI values, below left, shows areas of USG/Unhealthy AQI in CA/OR/NV. These regions of unhealthy AQI values correspond to an increase of PM 2.5 at the surface from the smoke and debris originating from the Happy Camp Complex Fire on the CA/OR border (burning roughly 40,000 acres) and smaller fires to the south and east. NOAA IDEA, below right, shows the GASP WEST AOD retrieval throughout the western portion of the country for today. Notable elevated AOD levels are throughout the Pacific Northwest due to the previously discussed fires. Elevated AOD also exists near Texas, which is due to wildfires in that region as well.

The HMS fire and smoke product, below left, shows smoke in the Pacific Northwest region, mostly in CA, OR, and WA. Eastward states, such as Idaho and Montana, should expect decreased air quality in the coming days. The NAAPS aerosol model, bottom right, shows the aerosol distribution over the country today for surface smoke, with the Happy Camp Fire dominating the source attributions.

Below is the CALIPSO image during the most recent overpass of the discussed fire region. The red oval roughly represents the spatial region of the fire impact. Layers aloft occur at 1,3, and 5 km with varying thicknesses.

September 6, 2014

Weekend Edition: July Complex fire is nearly under control but #790 starts in Oregon

Daniel Wesloh had a great image yesterday of the July Complex fire. That California fire is now 78% controlled but a new fire near Crater Lake is burning several hundred acres. The image below captures both fires.

A scientist from Iceland has been keeping us informed, somewhat sensationally, of the status of the Baroarbunga eruption and a major fissure has opened with large amounts of SO2 being emitted. While that SO2 does not stop air traffic at first, the sulfuric acid which is created after oxidation can cause pitting of windscreens on aircraft and etch the rotors in turbine engines. I will be flying to Europe on Monday night so we are watching this eruption carefully.

In the afternoon, AQUA had a clear view of the volcanic plume from Baroarbunga. Luckily it was heading eastward and away from air traffic lanes.

Update: September 7, 2014 17:40 EDT

Phoenix was hit by a "haboob", a large rolling dust storm on Saturday. Here is the NBC News video. The VIIRS AOD product shows slightly elevated AOD over Phoenix yesterday but the VIIRS dust mask showed nothing. Today, MODIS TERRA shows elevated AOD from the Happy Camp and July Complex fires in northern California.

September 5, 2014

Moderate AQIs in East, Smoke in West

A large region of Moderate AQI stretches from the Great Lakes north east into New England, additionally covering parts of the Mid-Atlantic and southern Canada as well as seen in the EPA AQI loop below left. Smaller patches extend into the Mississippi Valley and Southeast. Another swath of Moderate AQI covers most of California, and more show up in Oregon and the Rocky Mountain States. The elevated AQIs over the eastern U.S. seem to be ahead of a cold front draped down through the central U.S., shown in the NWS surface analysis below right. The cold front may push this airmass off the coast as it moves through this weekend, and any associated precipitation will help clear the air.

The HMS fire and smoke image below left shows that, while the Canadian fires seem to have stopped producing smoke, the Happy Camp Complex in northern California is still going strong. Dry and windy conditions are expected to continue through Saturday, providing further impetus to the fire. Also visible are a crescent of smoke from agricultural fires in northeast Texas as well as a few scattered fires. The MODIS Terra image below right shows the extent of the smoke from the Happy Camp Complex fires.