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Monday, September 14, 2020

Atmosphere is not delivering what we ordered

Sad to say, the clearing that should have been here by now is not only tardy but is poofing out as a lackluster weather feature that won't do much for us. The "cleanest" air in the state right now is Unhealthy air, whereas the model's advertised menu said we should have been seeing substantial improvements along the coast this morning. 

Updated projection

Not much in terms of weather to change the status quo a whole lot. See the forecast map for expected conditions in your area. To add to our woes, light southerly winds will continue for another day at least, dragging more smoke directly from Oregon fires northward along the I-5 corridor. So even if the ubiquitous smoke pool from offshore starts to erode a bit, a replacement is en route. 

Wanna get geeky and figure out what went wrong?

Many of us had relied on the HRRR- smoke model for several reasons. The University of Washington runs a suite of weather models which all have different physics options, so as to get a handle on uncertainty. One of the ensemble members is run with the same physics options as the HRRR. The plot below shows what yesterday's UW model runs thought ventilation indices along the WA coast would be like. The HRRR (light green trace) was in fact one of the most optimistic, showing about twice as much clearing as the mean of all other models. So today's forecast leans closer to the UW WRF model, which is closer to the ensemble mean.


174 comments:

  1. So when is it realistically going to start clearing out? (The HRRR still hasn't adjusted for much, it still claims good clearing today ... strange).

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    1. Hard to answer that, Joe. Nothing major before the end of the work week, it seems.

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    2. Can you explain why it is more white -foggy looking- today and yesterday too. Versus how it looked at the end of last week all orange. It also doesn’t smell as smokey/campfire smell.

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    3. Moisture in the air likes to condense around smoke particles, making a foggy soup. All that fog doesn't let through the red/orange light. When moisture mixed with aged smoke, it certainly doesn't smell like smoke anymore since it has chemically changed, but there is still particulate in the air.

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    4. There has been clearing of smoke in the upper atmosphere that causes the yellow/orange color

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    5. There is definitely a more “chemical” odor, like plastics being burned. We are staying inside and running air cleaners through the house. Just another negative occurrence brought to us by 2020. I’m SO ready for some good things to come our way. At least I can be grateful to have a house, although our landlord has decided to sell so we have to be out by the end of the month. With no place to go, it’s in God’s hands to point us in the right direction. I’m fresh out of ideas.

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    6. Question: here in Anacortes we seem to have true Smog - low fog marine layer mixed with the smoke (very acrid smell, sometimes orange). If we didn't have smoke, would we still be having this persistent fog, or is the marine layer more persistent because of the smoke? Is it the marine layer that holds the smoke down in the lower to the ground?

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  2. Will Mt Rainier clear up by end of day?

    And Forks /Lake Crescent areas by Tues/Wed?

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    1. We don't expect any real clearing today of smoke. Perhaps high elevations could be different but smoke is still region-wide. Forks on Tuesday night looks like it could see some real clearing, but smoke will still be out there over the Pacific.

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  3. The inability of science to forecast the smoke is surprising. It harkens back to the inability to accurately forecast snowfall when I moved to Seattle 30 years ago. Thankfully, the latter has improved and we can only hope for the same with smoke, since it seems to be with us now going forward. One suggestion would be to let us choose the model on the forecast map. Much like the European model is typically better at forecasting US hurricanes, maybe the WRF model will turn out better. Either way, letting us toggle between the models will give us a more realistic picture of when the situation might end, because what we've relied on the past week hasn't. Sorry, I know you all are doing your best, but as someone with severe asthma, this has been tougher for me than Covid. Thanks!

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    1. Sorry about your asthma and thanks for the suggestion. Worth looking into. We try to do that selection behind the scenes and lean on the model solution we feel has the most credibility, so we dont overwhelm the public with TMI.

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    2. If you navigate to the Monitoring and Forecast tab near the top of the webpage you can find like 7 different forecasting visualization tools and within that various model runs. I really like the Canadian FireWork 48-hour forecast animation however it is zoomed out pretty far but you can get a sense of what is happening.

      Ultimately though, as Ranil and Ferron have provided throughout this mass smoke event- It is incredibly hard to predict smoke behavior during such meteorologically boring periods with significant external smoke inputs. The Air Quality Program has provided excellent data evaluation and interpretation during this event and the last significant event in 2017.

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    3. Science (and weather forecasting) is based on models. Models are based on data + math.

      Snow was hard to predict 30 years ago because there weren't many sensors in the Pacific Ocean. The mathematical models were also not as sophisticated. Poor quality data, poor quality models, poor quality forecasts.

      Massive smoke events are rare. There isn't much data on them. No data on an event like this. And the models we are using were built to forecast weather events - things like hurricanes - but maybe not gargantuan smoke clouds. Poor quality data, poor quality models, poor quality forecasts.

      I do not mean to minimize your challenges. I hope it gets better soon and that you (and all of us!) get some relief. Wanted to give some context on the inability of science to accurately forecast the smoke.

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  4. So the linked forecast map uses the less optimistic model data? Here in the Port Angeles area the forecast is unhealthy today and USG tomorrow. That would be an improvement because I don't believe we've been better than very unhealthy at all. Hoping for improvement but am trying to not get hopes up. Thank you for all your hard work!

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    1. I'm sorry that people are mad that a prediction was off. Nobody, and that includes scientists, is right every time. At least they know what's happening now and can give us guidance. Thank you for all your hard work. Mother nature has her own schedule.

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  5. The forecast is still saying today will be Unhealthy for Sensitive Inidividuals. From what you've said that doesn't sound likely. Is it just due for an update?

    Thanks for keeping us updated. Not the news i was hoping for, but... good to know now.

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    1. Is it ok today to go on a mile or so walk? I’m healthy but 68. Thanks! Staying indoors all day, so hard!

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    2. Hi Linda
      Every person responds differently to the smoke. I would consult with your doctor or the State Health Dept., but at these pollution levels the general guidelines are to stay indoors as much as possible. If you have to be outdoors, avoid physical activity. I know this is really difficult. Both my dogs and I are starting to feel a bit crazy being cooped up in the house.

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  6. That actually gave me a feeling akin to hearing that Christmas was cancelled. *sigh*. Right, back to the drawing board.

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  7. How far would I have to drive from the Columbia Basin and in what direction to get to healthy air? Is Missoula Smokey too?

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    1. Zoom out the AQI map at the top of this page to see the whole continent. Currently it looks like there is good air in Salt Lake City and Billings. Conditions will change though... probably not worth the drive!

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    2. Did you drive somewhere? I'm thinking the same thing. I am not feeling good going on day 5 of very unhealthy and mostly hazardous air.

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    3. I am in Missoula now. Yes, it is bad.

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    4. I was just in Clark Fork, Idaho and drove through the mountains at 4500 ft elevation and it was completely smoked in. Horrible air quality.

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    5. My cousin was there a few days ago and said it was getting bad... The Gorge is disgusting

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    6. We live in central Oregon and drove to Elko, NV after looking at all the areas around. It is clear blue skies today (Monday) we’ve been here since Saturday as I couldn’t are the smoke in OR.

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    7. Salt Lake City has good air. 12 hour drive

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  8. Thank you again for all the work you are doing in keeping us updated on this situation: very much appreciated!
    If I understand correctly southern winds are going to bring more smoke, and the possible light rain we are going to have today (if any) will have no effect on the air quality. It seems like the worst-case scenario is an improvement on air quality only on Friday/Saturday, when all major weather forecast sources (Accuweather, weather.com) seem to agree on rain showers in the region… am I correct? Or is there any possibility to see some improvement before, regardless of the rain, and thanks to a miraculous change in winds?
    Also, in terms of effects on our health, is there any comparison with let’s say number of cigarettes smoked in a day and what a healthy adult (non-smoker) is breathing inside their house these days, with windows shut and recirculating air?
    Thank you so much again!

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  9. We've been stuck in Hazardous, so if the forecast map is right, the Seattle area today (Monday) could improve 2 categories into be Orange-USG, a welcome improvement! Do you believe we'll truly get out of Hazardous levels sometime today?

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    1. Probably not two categories. Stay tuned for a morning update

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  10. If rain falls, will that help local air conditions? And if so, is this already accounted for in the models or is this an independent effect?

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    1. Yes, rain helps deposit pollutants from the air. Some models account for deposition (photochemical grid models), but most forecasts treat smoke as a tracer (just floats around). Unfortunately, not much rain is expected inland on Tuesday (the coast/peninsula/san juans/bellingham will see some light rain). Thursday and Friday bring more regional moisture.

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  11. This is disappointing to hear, wish the system did what we hoped. Does this most likely signal that the rest of the work week we will be covered with pretty unsafe smoke and we have to look towards Saturday now?

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    1. Friday shows potential for real clearing in Western Washington with strong westerly winds.

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  12. How high off the ground are the smoke sensors?

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    1. Regulatory monitors (circles on the maps) are sited on the top of buildings.

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  13. Ranil Dhammapala - thanks for the humor and human touch in the smoke blog, backed by good science. It helps one to get through another day of yellow death fog here in the Tri-Cities.

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  14. Can you add a last updated attribute to the map? Or is that what the "Website 2.3.8 updated 9/9/2020" footer is?

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    1. Just added more intuitive dates to the radio buttons

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    2. I built a home made air purifier for inside the house. A box fan, a high grade furnace filter and a damp towel draped over the rig in that order. Duvall ace hardware is the go to place for supplies and advice.

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    3. Unknown: What do you mean a damp towel draped over the rig? You put a damp towel over the back of a plugged-in electric fan? Sounds a bit hazardous!

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  15. Ranil, THANK YOU for your well-explained, generous, and light-hearted blog posts and responses to everyone's questions and comments. It is rare for a government (quasi-government? :- ) group to write with such grace!

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  16. Is the forecast map updated to reflect most current data and projections at this time?

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    1. Yes. And it can change during the day if the need arises.

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    2. The forecast map looks updated. Keep in mind though that Ecology only updates it's own jurisdiction. Other clean-air agencies may update at different times. Expect it to be updated more than once a day and keep in mind it's a 24-hr average forecast based on AQI (not WAQA).

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  17. I just wanted to say thanks for the update. I really appreciate these write-ups.

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  18. We've been in Chelan for 3 days of smoke and havent been able to go outside. Should we wait it out for some clear weather or will it be smokey all week? Trying to figure out if we should just go home ��

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    1. Smoke forecasts don't agree, but you could see some smoke clear out tomorrow night in Chelan. Problem is it could be replaced real quick.

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  19. Thanks WA Smoke Blog. Look forward to every one of your posts. They are clearly written, rooted in subject matter expertise, and, most importantly, honest compared to other sources. We can handle whatever it is. You share your best assessment, admit when it is wrong, and move forward. A great service is provided here.

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  20. tried to send this earlier but not sure if it got thru as it appeared there was a glitch.
    If this did make it just delete this one.

    Thanks for your explanations tinged with humor.
    Given that you are now not expecting clearing in western washington until Friday when would you guess that the Spokane area would likely have decent clearing of all this very bad, horrible, no good, terrible air?
    thanks again

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  21. We have been strictly inside since Thursday, so this is day 5. I'm worried about our health, my son's health. How long can inside air last? Our indoor air is smoky. Blankets, my cat smells like smoke. Should we drive somewhere to get out of this if it will last till Friday? I ordered an air purifier but it's a long way coming. I'm about to book a flight, seriously, but won't because of covid. husband's been walking the dogs wearing n95. Dogs are coughing. Just horrible.

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    1. It sounds like your indoor air quality is compromised. Is there any way to get an air purifier from a store? Not sure if they are still in stock. Not sure on your location or house setup, but you might be able get one room cleared out with a purifier and seal windows/doors.

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    2. Brooke, try the following things:

      Damp,not saturated, towel under exterior doors
      Seal with tape,caulk,trash bags,whatever you have on hand, bath vents, dryer vent, fireplace, and all plumbing penetrations
      On this site watch the filter fan video. I'm running 3 in my 1500sq fr house
      Consider where your hvac is and how leaky it might be. Try it first. If you've been running it try the fans then use whichever is better
      Mop once a day heavy traffic areas (don't vacuum now)
      Wipe down counters where eating

      I have an asthmatic. I've doubled his meds and we're ok. It's not great but we're ok.

      My indoor air is still unhealthy but it isn't toxic. As the levels drop still be stuck inside but using these methods you can. Prob get the air to healthy level if the AQ drops to 250-300 depending on your home type.

      Well get through this. Good luck

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    3. DIY air filter
      https://pscleanair.gov/525/DIY-Air-Filter

      Even better:
      https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5760488227d4bd87de902e88/t/5d30945dc7c3510001027ea4/1563464798578/Box+Fan+Filter%2C+A+DIY+Users+Guide%2C+Colville+Tribes+Air+Quality+Program.pdf

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    4. I’m really concerned for you and your family. Walking dogs means opening a door twice, plus dogs and walker will be covered in smoke particulates. Assuming you’re not already doing the following, you might try: shorter walks, washing/wiping down dogs afterwards, immediately showering and washing or isolating walker’s clothes by keeping in a plastic bag until ready to wash. In addition to the other suggestions mentioned, I hope this helps.❤️

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    5. Hey guys! We left for a hotel. Yes me husband, son, three dogs and my cat! It is so much better. AQ here is less than half of what we were. We were right by Portland. 500+ ....489 there now. Tues am. 181 2hrs north towards Olympia. Hotel ac off , they switched the breaker off for us! It's crazy but I was literally smelling smoke 24/7 and don't now!! I ordered box fan, filters merv 13 and purifier but still not shipped, also chose fastest shipping. Husband went fri to two home depts, local ace, lowes, walmart, fred meyer, target, yes, and costco, no purifier but got merv 11 filters. We had two story apt and turned on AC to but could never get confirmation about if it was pulling outside air in. Taped n toweled off fireplace and above microwave and below. Still so much smoke I was sick. I feel way better at hotel but stressed. I would recommend if you feel sick call hotels and ask about AQ in rooms. Husband's work closed down till Monday. Had to rent a van to fit all the pets and drove w ac on circulate and it was totally fine! Thank God we still had emergency money after furloughs, and paying taxes, you know all the fun stuff. Please help each other! I offered to pay hotel for a friend but they wanted to stay.

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  22. Looking at the forecast where I am (Spokane), it appears we would be clear and free tomorrow, but that seems like an anomaly since the entire rest of eastern Washington looks to be Very Unhealthy. Can you clarify what you think may happen to the Hazardous levels here? Can I assume they will also not clear out this afternoon like the Western Washington projection? Thanks

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    1. I think you may have been looking at the map before it was updated for your region this morning. Check it now. Keep in mind different counties have different jurisdictions so they don't all update at the same time on the forecast map. Usually by 9 am we see it all updated across the state.

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  23. Thanks for this blog and all of the information! We had scheduled be in Leavenworth Saturday- Monday. Do you think there will be moderate air quality over there by then? Would hate to cancel but doesn’t make sense to go if we can’t be outside.

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    1. Friday weather forecast shows a large transition in winds, coming from the northwest for a change. That spells relief for the whole state.

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  24. The forecast map shows King County going from Hazardous on the interactive map to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups today. Something seems off there... There's nothing to clear out the smoke today or tomorrow.

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  25. A heartfelt thanks to Ranil, for the clarity and the human touch. I've been following the blog for a few days now (along with a half-dozen other sources), and this is the one place where I find that there is a real person in conversation with real people, addressing the questions in a way that echoes my real concerns. While I appreciate the information in the toneless NWS alerts, I sometimes wish there was a Ranil over there anticipating the fear and confusion that readers bring with them. I appreciate you, Ranil.

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  26. Do you know what elevation the unhealthy air rises to? I’m wondering if it would be safe to hike to the Enchantments right now. Thanks.

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    1. The current monitoring map doesn't show any improvement at higher elevations. But, you would be higher up than those monitors. Smoke is still being generated too! Technically the smoke model says the high elevation locations near there will see some improvement tomorrow night. But that is no guarantee! You can assess smoke at high elevations in near real time through web-cam and satellite imagery. http://www.alertwildfire.org/oregon/index.html https://www.wsdot.com/traffic/cameras/ https://www.star.nesdis.noaa.gov/GOES/sector_band.php?sat=G17&sector=pnw&band=GEOCOLOR&length=24

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  27. What can we do to help our indoor air quality? I am running the central AC and using some portable air purifiers but its not clear where our fresh air intake is for the AC and even if we have one. This house was built in 1989. Should I be opening a window occasionally and put a wet towel or something to trap the smoke just to get a little air exchange?

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    1. Fresh air intake could be next to your furnace on a duct leading outside (manual lever). Most central air systems are already set to recirculate because it's not energy efficient to heat/cool outdoor air. I would not open windows unless the air outside is fresher than the air inside.

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    2. Folks: If you haven't yet, replace your air filters. If your system will take it (ask your HVAC contractor) use at least MERV 13

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  28. Hazardous on the interactive map to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups today. Something seems off there... There's nothing to clear out the smoke today or tomorrow.

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    1. Please keep in mind the interactive map is AQI (not WAQA) and that different jurisdictions are updated by different entities at different times.

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    2. The forecast map (for King County today) says 'unhealthy for sensitive groups' which is blatantly false. At no point today will any type of measurement of air be only unhealthy for sensitive people. Who is in charge of updating it? They should be notified.

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    3. Yes the Puget Sound area forecasts werent updated until just now. Check back in about 3 minutes

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  29. Thank you so much for this really helpful and clear information. What a service you are providing to the entire state - thank you!
    Do your models tell you how high in elevation the smoke is? I am planning a long day hike Wednesday 9/16 near Leavenworth, which will be at 4000-7000ft elevation, and am wondering if the smoke will be at all elevation levels on the hike, or if it is most concentrated at lower elevations, etc? Thank you!

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    1. Yes the models do tell us! But I wouldn't trust them. The current monitoring map doesn't show any improvement at higher elevations. But, you would be higher up than those monitors. Smoke is still being generated too! Technically the smoke model says the high elevation locations near there will see some improvement tomorrow night. But that is no guarantee! You can assess smoke at high elevations in near real time is through web-cam and satellite imagery. http://www.alertwildfire.org/oregon/index.html https://www.wsdot.com/traffic/cameras/ https://www.star.nesdis.noaa.gov/GOES/sector_band.php?sat=G17&sector=pnw&band=GEOCOLOR&length=24 You can also see the low cost sensor network on fire.airnow.gov and sometimes get lucky.

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  30. It is easier to remain inside when I can smell the smoke and get eye, nose throat symptoms when I venture out like last week. It is more difficult to stay in on days like today in Seattle when although it looks smoky-foggy I don't smell smoke or get symptoms.

    The reply earlier from Farran explaining why it might not smell is very helpful. "Moisture in the air likes to condense around smoke particles, making a foggy soup.....When moisture mixed with aged smoke, it certainly doesn't smell like smoke anymore since it has chemically changed, but there is still particulate in the air."
    If the air can be unhealthy as suggested by the air quality monitors in the absence of smell and/or symptoms it would be even more helpful for stubborn folk like me to emphasize that fact.

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  31. I'm in central Washington. Quincy. I read that we will be in the smoke longer. Is their any estimate on time frame for it to clear here?

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    1. Perhaps some marginal improvement tomorrow, but smoke could come back again Wednesday. Every model shows a big clearing event on Friday.

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    2. seems like it also comes back after it? Where's a good place to see the smoke forecast 5 days out? Saw a gif on Boise NWS twitter, but can't find a page for the life of me.

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    3. Many unknowns with fire activity and the models never get the plume injection height right. You can see a 4-day CAMS forecast at https://www.windy.com/-PM2-5-pm2p5

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  32. I'm confused about what I should do with our air system. We do not have an air conditioner but have centralized heating and a fan. Should I use the "circ" setting? I don't know if it's pulling air from outside or it's circulating what is already in the house...It's confusing! Thanks for your help!

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    1. Yes you can likely run the fan on circulate. Your central heating probably doesn't pull in outside air since that can get very expensive to heat in the winter. For me, I have a duct leading to the outside wall from my furnace, and a lever on the duct that I keep perpendicular to air flow (blocking outside air). Also, replace your filter as needed!

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  33. Any idea why the AQI numbers are so different between websites? I'm looking at Bellevue, WA on https://fire.airnow.gov/?lat=47.700377599999996&lng=-122.0542464&zoom=10 (reads 204 @ 9/14 6 am) and https://enviwa.ecology.wa.gov/home/map (reads 303 @ 9/14 6 am). 100 points is a lot of difference. Which is more accurate?

    Also, how accurate are the low-cost sensors shown on purpleair.com and on fire.airnow.gov? They seem consistent with the official sensors nearby, but there's still the original question above to contend with.

    Thanks

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    1. AQI and WAQA have different thresholds for particulate concentrations. So WAQA index will always be worse than AQI. (Ecology uses WAQA).

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    2. Low cost sensors are not accurate at all for smoke. EPA actually divides all the "concentrations" in half before plotting them on the map.

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  34. I'm curious to know why there hasn't been an air quality burn ban, only a fire safety one. I have neighbors arguing that charcoal grilling or smoking food outside is allowed during a fire safety burn ban, which is literally true, but I can't understand why anyone would want to under current circumstances. I don't suppose an occasional person with a smoker or grill actually makes much difference, but it sure seems weird to see the air quality burn ban site all on green.

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    1. Permits for burning are not given during these times, but yes people can still go fire up their grills and run a wood-stove. Air quality burn bans are generally only made when stagnation events will trap wood-stove smoke near the surface. I agree it is weird and we've discussed it, but we save those bans for wintertime stagnation events when curbing human burning makes a big difference.

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  35. Good morning. We are planning to go to cape disappointment this weekend and for the life of me I can't find the air quality for that area. would you happen to know if it's safe to go out this weekend?

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    1. A strong continuous flow from the northwest will clear our air, starting on Friday.

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  36. Based on updates, checking multiple reporting sites, Mason County still sitting between Very Unhealthy and Hazardous. Shelton is the only reporting monitor for Mason County. There is less resistance around water and in valleys for the smoke to become trapped. Allyn, Grapeview, and the Key Peninsula still remain very smokey despite the small effort. Hearing reports that more smoke is going to push up with a southerly wind is not encouraging for all the yard work that needs to be done before fall/winter. Perhaps shaving my beard and wearing the full face mask is what's necessary now.

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  37. So...clearing out of smoke in Benton County no earlier than Friday, September 18? Wow...we've been told here by Tuesday, Sept.15

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    1. Yes smoke models do show marginal improvement later tomorrow. But, depending on fire activity in Washington and Oregon, you should expect new smoke to flow in again.

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  38. Thank you for this amazing resource! At what AQI would you recommend opening the windows/doors? Will the improvements today/tomorrow be significant enough to warrant letting some outside air in (before things get worse again)? We are in Seattle in a house without any type of HVAC/filter and our indoor air quality has deteriorated quite a bit.

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    1. Hi Laura, wait until it hits about Moderate to throw open the windows. That wont happen until late this week. Try assembling a box fan with some filters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qr1Aj6Di7w

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  39. It's raining in West Olympia right now!

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  40. what are the chances of clearing on Friday? like percentage i don't want false hopes AGAIN

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  41. Is placing a properly fitted MERV 13 filter sealed with tape in a window opening for those of us without AC capabilities to exhaust trapped, hot indoor air reasonable? Thank you

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    1. Try this "purifier" instead: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qr1Aj6Di7w

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    2. Thank you, have been using that all weekend. While that helps purify the air, it dosen't cool it. Any opinion on my prior idea? Thanks again.

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    3. Another question, in the video it states to use a filter with within the range of 11-14. Is that accurate?

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    4. A filter with a "MERV" rating of 11-14 will help clean the air. The higher the number the better job it will do filtering particles.

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  42. Hi Farren and Ranil — thanks so much for your great insight. Quick question — any details on why the forecast model was so off? Is the forecasting technology for smoke not good enough yet?

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    1. Taylor: as far as we can tell the smoke layer is causing a much stronger inversion than the models are able to account for. This means those upper level winds cant mix down to the surface.

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  43. I don't have any questions I just want you to know how grateful so many of us are for the service you're providing. Thank you.

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  44. You mention the I-5 corridor, but Spokane (the second largest city in the state) is in the hazardous area. When can we expect relief?

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    1. Smoke models show some modest improvement on Wednesday but still plenty of smoke in the air. Even another influx should be expected on Thursday. Friday/Saturday has a very strong weather event coming from the northwest that should flush the air across the region and then we can all breathe.

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  45. So hiking on Mt Rainier should be put off? Im scheduled to head there Wednesday but dont know if I should cancel or go and take my chances. Way to have 2020 blow one more vaca!

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    1. Cant see how Mt Rainier will be above the smoke layer by Wed

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  46. So, if I'm reading all this correctly, we might expect it to clear by Friday, all across the state? Or will it clear just on the West side? I'm in Ellensburg and my pup is having a hard time with all this. I wish there was somewhere we could escape to.

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    1. Hello interesting_screen_name, western WA is expected to clear on Friday, eastern WA by the weekend. Do you want to create a clean room with a fan like this? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qr1Aj6Di7w

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    2. Yes I will do that. Thank you for all you're doing! :)

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  47. Thank you! This blog very helpful. Great resource

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  48. Any comment on the fact that we seem to be trending a bit worse than forecast? Readings in the 200s all over the greater Seattle area meaning hazardous, when even updated forecast was calling for unhealthy.

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    1. I totally agree but there are three things to keep in mind: 1) the forecast map is based on AQI (not WAQA), 2) there was so much smoke in the upper air the past few days that weather models over-predicted surface heating and corresponding vertical mixing, 3) hazardous is above 300 (very unhealthy is 200-300).

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  49. Why would you pick the significantly more optimist model to communicate with us. I realize you don't control the weather but you do decide what you communicate with us. We are all making decision based on what is provided. Clearing Sunday versus the following Friday is significantly different. I would have made different choices this weekend had the other model information been presented.

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    1. Sorry for the inconvenience this has caused you. Its a fair question. The HRRR has been the model that most everyone was relying on for a few weeks now and there was no compelling reason to dive this deep into how it was performing. Turns out that the weather feature we were banking on was weak anyway (Friday's one is much stronger). The smoke strengthened the inversion- something the HRRR did not adequately factor in. It thought more of the winds aloft would mix down to the surface. Those winds are sailing on aloft now, and have already sheared the tops of the smoke layer (you might notice the smoke column is a little less dense today, even though ground level concentrations are still high).
      Why didnt we pick other models? For various reasons those had other weaknesses that we felt were too problematic.

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    2. A few questions- the utc is seven hours ahead, right?
      Why do the zero hour forecasts conflict with what we can see outside? Wouldn’t the model be corrected with real time data?
      The mode shows clearing tonight- am I a fool to put stock in it, or is a potential outcome based on model parameters? Thanks!

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    3. HRRR respecter, yes that is usually the strength of the HRRR, the frequent re-initialization with current conditions. Dr Cliff Mass offers a good explanation as to why the HRRR also overdid the dispersion at https://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2020/09/much-more-pessimistic-air-quality.html

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    4. Thank you - however, even the current zero hour forecasts don't seem to reflect what's going on outside- the zero hour forecast has clear air. Am I reading it wrong?

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  50. Why does the air have a chemical smell? What is its composition?

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    1. Woodsmoke contains poly-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and terpenes. These include substances like naphthalene, benzene, benzo(a)pyrene, and many more. Once in the atmosphere, these compounds react with ozone and other atmospheric oxidants to produce different compounds. You are smelling a mix of these organics. As smoke ages, the smell also evolves.

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    2. This is the kind of feeling I dig! Thanks Odelle! Also note, humidity affects both chemical composition and our palate of scent perception. Smell receptors are heavily dependent of humidity for for nerve sensor inputs. Even at the same ppm concentrations, if we add humidity more aroma is noticable. Today we had a bit of humidity added to the mix- even as some places have slight decreases in overall concentrations, the combo of relative humidity and oxidization of common smoke chemicals produces new- and apparently more-aromas.

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  51. Can you please explain the difference between an AQI number of 150 and 300? Is 300 smoke that is twice as thick, or is it exponential? Also, I noticed numbers as high as 570+ last night around Vancouver, WA... How bad is that compared to other cities in the world that are notorious for air pollution?

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    1. Its like a piecewise linear scale (i.e. linear within categories, not the same slope between categories). See https://www.airnow.gov/aqi/aqi-basics/. So no, 300 isnt twice as polluted as 150. Close but not quite. 500+ is very bad, even compared to cities that experience chronic pollution levels.

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  52. We don't have air filters at are apartment in Lacey will we be safe?

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    1. There are other actions you can take to protect your health see the health tab or the WA DOH Smoke from Fires webpage: https://www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/AirQuality/SmokeFromFires

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  53. Seems like air quality is actually getting worse throughout the day. NWCAA has us forecast for unhealthy range and we are nearing hazardous at 281. Why does the forecast for today vary so much from the observed reality?

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    1. Forecast says Unhealthy and AQI shows Unhealthy to Very Unhealthy today in your region. Keep in mind the forecast is for a daily average.

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    2. I'm curious about this too. I live in northwest Whatcom county and only one of the three active monitors in our forecast region has dipped below 200 since Friday (and only just) yet our current "forecast" consistently shows lower than our readings. Is it possible that the two stations in Ferndale that have not changed from a reading of 1 are being incorrectly included in the average? Their readings are clearly incorrect. Also, thank you to everyone at WA Ecology who is working on keep all of this information available. It is greatly appreciated!

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    3. You mention the HRRR model is the light green trace, what color is the UW WRF updated model? If it’s in the comments above, feel free to feeder me to that. Thank you!

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  54. Is it safe to stay indoors (including small kids and sensitive adults) for prolonged time ( week or more) if we are unable to keep air quality lower than 70 AQI even with A/C and air purifier even in one room? And the rest of the house is consistently at 200+ AQI.
    Thank you

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    Replies
    1. Hi, yes thats a terrible dilemma but unless you string up a second purifier in the same room, you may not have much choice. Use the best masks you can find if you are sensitive (N95 preferred, but KN95 might be OK too)

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  55. Thanks for your great work. If I may, some of us no doubt could use some words of encouragement if you have any to offer. This is psychologically...hard.

    Also curious if offhand you know of any similar precedent or historic event like this? Grandpa has lived here his whole life and knows of nothing. What about elsewhere? Sometimes it helps to know that people have endured these things before.

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    1. Hello, I am working on assembling the data for a comparison like this. Sad to say many people in the developing world routinely endure similar or worse conditions for much longer than we do.

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    2. While you're at it, why don't you peruse the data for the Wenatchee Valley in mid to late September of 2012? I was there and it was hellish.

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    3. Maja, This blog and the smoke response cooperating group was started in 2012 due to the Wenatchee area impacts. That was the year we first tried to figure out how to help the public understand what was happening with fires and smoke. I'm sure 2012 will be included.

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    4. J. Pererson, thank you for the reply and for that bit of info on the founding of this blog. The terror of that experience has never left me, it was surreal and I am reminded of it every fire season since.

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  56. We’ll be heading down to Peshastin which is about an hour drive from the wildfire action in WA. The property we’ll b staying at has an outdoor pool, and I was wondering if you knew how safe/unsafe it would be to use an outdoor pool with all the smoke particles in the air settling in the pool?

    Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Gemstone, its not particles depositing in the pool water but exposure to smoke while outdoors that you should avoid.

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  57. I'm sorry if you have answered this question before. I am freaked out because I have no help here and no air filters in the house. I need to make a box fan filter but to do that I must venture outside to the hardware store.
    I have no idea to what degreee it is "unhealthy", "dangerous", or "hazardous" to be outside, even just to run to my car, run into the store, back to my car, etc.
    I am in La Center, WA, just 20 miles north of SE Vancouver, WA. No sensors near us.
    Can you give me some idea? Are we here in the 300+ range? I don't want to be an idiot and go outside only to come back with bad symptoms of smoke inhalation. I need other supplies, like we are out of toliet paper now.
    I am not feeling bad, but I can smell some smoke in the bathroom, have to figure out how to vlock the fan vent. I am levaing a cool air humidifier on mist of the time and simmering a large pot of water a couple hours a day.
    Other than that, no other filters. It is not real smoky in here, but worried about the house air quality all the same. I tend to get an irritated throat and sinuses rather easily.

    Thanks for any helpful info

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sensors near you are in Vancouver, Yacolt and Sauvie Island. The "cleanest" of these is reporting Very Unhealthy air. Please use the map at the top of this blog. Mask up and use the car a/c in recirculation mode when driving. If you are very sensitive consider arranging for home deliveries, or asking a friend to get your supplies. Stay safe!

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  58. Hi there, thank you for keeping us up to date. I keep running the HRRR and Canadian models and they all indicate some sort of temporary relief for both vertical and near surface smoke for tonight but I don't see that anywhere in the forecast discussion or on here. The models seem very counter to what is currently happening with PM 2.5 concentration only increasing today. This has been very disappointing to hear since last week that the smoke was going to get better only to find out that it was only getting worse, much worse. Had we known there was even a risk, however minimal the risk was, we would have left, I think it's important to let people know what the models show even if only 5% of the models show something different, it's still a possibility, however remote. Thank you for keeping us updated on developments and all though, I'm sure it's getting very frustrating and exhausting on everyone right now. Stay safe and healthy

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  59. Well, over here in Pullman, we have a tiny area where we can see a little blue, believe it or not. The outer ring has dense smoke but maybe the light winds will help. Only time will tell. Can't wait for this outrageous smoke to move along.

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  60. Should I be concerned that the weather forecast I see on wunderground shows wind out of the SW on Thursday/Friday? What are the odds that we don't get any relief from the ground level smoke on Friday (like what happened Monday)?
    Thank you for your all the information this past week, this has helped keep us somewhat sane.

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    1. We're a lot more confident with Friday's system as it is advertized to be much stronger than the one that sailed overhead today.

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  61. Thanks so much for all the work you put into this blog. As others have said, the human touch and responses you give are a lifeline during smoke emergencies. I am chronically ill and have asthma and have been following your blog and recommending it to other disabled and older folks since 2016. Your work, clarity and dedication are really appreciated.

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  62. The Firesmoke forecast shows the Smoke in the Olympic peninsula clearing today. How accurate is this forecast model?

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    1. Austin I have my suspicions about the clearing shown in all models today. The forecast map was updated assuming persistence

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  63. How is it that air quality can be so different within a span of 10 miles? For example, Pullman has been better off than Moscow, ID according to most AQI readings. What gives?

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    1. We have been looking into this and think the Pullman monitor has been running low at higher concentrations. Monitors in Clarkston & Lewiston are much closer to each other.

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    2. In the Yakima area the lower valley has (for most the past week) been quite a bit more worse than the upper valley. It was weird last week when there was moderate air in Yakima with blue skies, but then looking towards Union Gap and Ahtanum Ridge you could see the smoke pooling like it was stuck.

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  64. I wish companies took this more seriously. Hazardous air quality means we shouldn’t be out in it. Why is UPS still running? I understand that we can’t shit down but at what point does everyone realize the harm they are doing to their bodies by being out in this? I hope this clears sooner rather than later.

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  65. My furnace has a MERV 12 filter, I couldn't find a MERV 13 in time for all this smoke and I'm not even sure my furnace can handle it. Should I still run the fan on my furnace given most of my house doesn't have any air purification? I have a couple of small room sized ones that we use for bedrooms, but nothing for the common areas that we are spending a good amount of time in, and we are starting to feel symptoms even with the windows all closed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A filter with a MERV rating of 11-14 will help clean the air. The higher the number the better job it will do filtering particles. However, you will have to check the manufacturer's instructions to know if your system can handle higher MERV ratings. Check to make sure it won't bring in the outside smoky air before deciding to run it. Are the ones in your rooms HEPA portable air cleaners? You want to make sure it's rated for the size of the room your using it in (https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/resources/documents/indoor-air-quality-research). If you're starting to feel symptoms, try spending most of your time in the room with the portable air cleaners and make it a "cleaner air room." More info available here: https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/create-clean-room-protect-indoor-air-quality-during-wildfire

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  66. Hello. The Air Quality Alert issued says to keep your doors and windows shut unless its too hot. My question has to do with ventilation. Its very hot and stagnant in my space. I have made a box fan air purifier for my apartment, which has been running off and on since Friday. The heat inside is stifling, without ventilation. How I can most safely provide myself some type of ventilation? I have windows on the south and north sides of my unit. I purchased an air filter, MERV 13, that would actually fit snug into my window opening. Would applying this with some tape/seal make any difference in the air coming in from outside (if I were to place it in a single window opening)? I'd assume so, just looking for some type of advice/guidance on ventilation. Thanks for all that you do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Track the air quality and open your windows when the air gets cleaner. If you do need to open your windows when the air quality is poor, try opening windows in a single room to cool that room, running your portable air cleaner, and spending most of your time in that single room

      after you get the air cleaner/cooler. Creating a cleaner air room can be a solution when you can’t keep your whole apartment clean and cool (https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/create-clean-room-protect-indoor-air-quality-during-wildfire). Putting it in the window with a good seal probably wouldn't hurt, but might not help much with the heat with nothing to push the air through. All the same, if you can tell it is too hot, focus getting cooler as the priority. More info on ventilation available here: https://www3.epa.gov/airnow/smoke_fires/indoor-air-filtration-factsheet-508.pdf

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  67. I am wondering if there are any indoor air quality monitors you could recommend, to be able to reliably check our indoor air quality during this smoke crisis? Thanx!

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    Replies
    1. There is a lot to consider in selecting a low-cost sensor. Start with EPA toolbox for ways to use (https://www.epa.gov/air-sensor-toolbox) and then you can find more about performance evaluations here: http://www.aqmd.gov/aq-spec/evaluations/summary-pm

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  68. What can I do for my family indoors to improve air quality??
    We live in an older house that doesn't have any means of filtering the air. Meaning, NO air conditioning and NO HVAC or central heating system. We have floor board heating unfortunately. The house has windows that are breezy because they weren't installed properly. Also, the daylight basement is heavy with black mold/mildew.
    We have a 2 year old, 2 Chihuahua's and a Labrador with a heart condition...

    PLEASE HELP! ANY SUGGESTIONS ABOUT CHEAPER SOLUTIONS ARE WELCOME.

    Ps
    We currently only have 1 box fan, (in this huge house), and have duct taped a Filtrate filter on the back.

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    Replies
    1. There are no perfect solutions unfortunately. Try this blog post from last week for any new ideas. https://wasmoke.blogspot.com/2020/09/protect-yourself-from-wildfire-smoke.html

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    2. Tape the window frames, it made a huge difference for us!

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  69. So here we are on Friday afternoon, a bunch of rain and still on AQI 150. Will this data point help improve the model? Obviously rain doesn't have the expected effect.

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    1. I bet the smoke won't clear until Wednesday or so, with strong winds

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