June 9, 2016

Wildfires Spread Smoke Across Pacific Southwest; High Pressure Systems Raise Ozone Levels

Air quality rose to Code Yellow (Moderate) levels in a large portion of the nation, including the Plains States, the Pacific Southwest, and the Southeast. These elevated particulate matter levels are shown by AirNow's Air Quality Index (AQI), top left. There was also smoke over Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, and the Great Lakes region, as shown by the HMS map, top right. This smoke may have been caused by multiple wildfires in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. Among these wildfires was a fire near Young, Arizona. The fire was caused by lighting and spanned over 30,000 acres of forest. Strong winds around the fire may contribute to the spread of smoke in and around Arizona. Smoke over Texas and Oklahoma can be seen in MODIS Terra's satellite images, bottom left.

Ozone levels were moderate for the majority of the Plains States, the Pacific Southwest, and the Pacific Northwest (AirNow, bottom right). Ozone levels reached Code Orange (Unsafe for Sensitive Groups) in Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Illinois, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Tennessee, as well as Code Red (Unhealthy) levels in Georgia. High pressure systems in these areas may be contributing to the large ozone concentrations.

Posted by mglover at June 9, 2016 2:54 PM

The fire near Young, Arizona is an example of the shift in forest service fire policy. It is being "managed" in order to accomplish fuel reduction & simulate natural fire regime like a prescribe burn would. (There is conflicting research about whether low level controlled/managed burning actually prevents catastrophic wildfires and also whether it really is sufficient for ecosystems that naturally rely on more severe fires.)

Posted by: Grace Montgomery at June 10, 2016 1:56 AM
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