July 14, 2008

California Fires Continue, but Air Quality Improves to Good-to-Moderate across the Country

Air quality is Code Green (Good) and Code Yellow (Moderate) across the entire country today. For what may be the first time since wildfires began in northern and central California on June 21, surface air quality is not being affected adversely by smoke and particulates. Although smoke is being reported on the ground at Monterey (CA) Peninsula Airport, Redding (CA) Municipal Airport, and Fallon Naval Air Station in Nevada, it does not seem to be impacting air quality. The image below shows today’s MODIS Terra true color image overlaid with the 21:00 UTC AQI, and you can see the welcome abundance of green and yellow dots across the country. The only outlier is El Paso, Texas, which has been reporting Code Red (Unhealthy) and Code Purple (Very Unhealthy) hourly ozone levels this afternoon.

Smoke from the California wildfires is visible in today’s MODIS Terra true color image of the continental United States (below on left), as is a pool of haze banked off the east coast ahead of clouds associated with a frontal boundary. Elevated AOD related to particulates from the California wildfires and the haze off the East coast is evident in today’s GASP AOD loop (below on right).

Since it’s a slow day for air quality, I thought I’d throw in a current GOES visible satellite image of Tropical Storm Bertha, currently located approximately 65 miles northeast of Bermuda. Tropical cyclones always look impressive on satellite imagery, and when they interact with the eastern United States and Gulf Coast, they can significantly impact air quality. I'll write more about that the next time a tropical cyclone approaches the U.S., because Bertha is forecast to stay out in the Atlantic and not directly impact the continental Unites States. Currently, Bertha is moving north at 9 mph and has maximum sustained winds near 70 mph. The National Hurricane Center expects Bertha to become a Hurricane during the next 24 hours, and there is a chance that changeover could occur before the storm’s strongest winds move over Bermuda in the next few hours. Bertha has been creating dangerous rip currents along the eastern U.S. coast from New England to the Carolinas, so if you are vacationing at the beach along the Atlantic coast, be careful for the next few days until Bertha takes a turn to the east.

Posted by Amy Huff at July 14, 2008 7:15 PM
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