Sunday, September 13, 2020

Where are you when we need you most, O clean marine air?

"I'm already there. Take a look around. I'm the shadow on the ground". 

OK that doesn't help. But its true. Fog around parts of the Puget Sound confirm that marine air did get through the Chehalis gap overnight. The trouble is there's still plenty of smoke over the coastal waters which the marine air is dragging along with it. But this morning's satellite images show where the silver lining is, and how the vertical smoke column over WA is thinning. 



Ground level smoke is not going to erode as fast as we'd like, however. It will be Monday before much of western WA and the central and northcentral foothills of the Cascades see substantial relief. For far eastern WA, plan for little relief before Tuesday. I wish I had better news for areas around the Columbia River Gorge that will be directly downwind of some monstrous Oregon fires. 

Check the forecast map and plan accordingly. As has been the case since Friday, our best advice is to remain indoors and hunker down. 

Some of Ecology's monitors in eastern WA are not reporting data to the map above because the high readings are being automatically invalidated ("nah, that's erroneous data, no way it can be so high --> trash & blacklist!"). We've just convinced the algorithm to come to terms with the bitter truth and these data should start to appear on the above map shortly. Ecology's monitoring data dotmap has been current, however. 

An aside: I've received questions from folks who're wondering why Ecology's map shows Good air quality in some areas, when everything else nearby is crummy. Thats because the default view of the map shows all pollutants being monitored, not just fine particle pollution (PM2.5, aka "smoke"). Ozone and sulfur dioxide levels are low, so sites monitoring just these pollutants show up as Good. Click on the "PM2.5" tab to filter these out. 

62 comments:

  1. Thank you for fixing that upper limit!!!! Robin Priddy

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  2. Hello!

    Thank you for this work daily, it means a lot to us. Does this mean that tomorrow we can expect to finally clear the very unhealthy/unhealthy for the Seattle metro? Where the rest of the week goes between unhealthy sensitive and sensitive through the week from Tuesday?

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    1. We're expecting the Seattle area may "clear" down to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups tomorrow, and perhaps down to Moderate --> Good after that, assuming there are no major new fires. But forecasts change so please watch this space

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  3. Thank you for your work, after this clears up will this website stay active?

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    1. The map at the top of this blog updates year round, but there isnt always a need to keep posting articles

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  4. Thank for the ongoing weather updates. Can I receive some clarity around your statement regarding the Columbia River Gorge: Are you saying we shouldn’t expect relief this week?

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    1. Not as soon as the other areas. Some models show OR smoke continuing to get pushed through there, so it might be a few more days. I'm waiting for another set of model predictions to become available tomorrow.

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  5. I am also in the Columbia River Gorge and would like to know if/when relief is expected.

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    1. Not as soon as the other areas. Some models show OR smoke continuing to get pushed through there, so it might be a few more days. I'm waiting for another set of model predictions to become available tomorrow.

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  6. I will miss your very able, cogent and humorous coverage, you have been a pal throughout without, cheers!

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    1. I just want to second this. Information in an emergency is crucial to remaining calm. Thank you

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  7. As things clear out in the next few days, how likely is it for major smoke to return towards the end of the week and into next weekend? What would cause the smoke to return?

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    1. Tom, that scenario is certainly possible but probably not on the same scale. I dont see the conditions setting up for such a major event.

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  8. Box fan, MERv13, and air purifier are either sold out or has the earliest arrival next Sunday if we order online. Is it possible to just use a regular oscillating fan to help the air circulation indoor?

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    1. Yes, with the best mask you can find. At least it helps that temps have dropped

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    2. yes, I'm wondering the same thing. Also wondering, besides wet towels on window cracks (not open, but not a perfect seal either) would a moist/wet towel in front of a fan work?

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  9. Sorry if this is a lame question, but we are new the eastern side of the cascades. Is Wenatchee/East Wenatchee part of the Columbia Gorge? Are we still in for heavy smoke through next week?

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  10. Would you be able to post the URL or coordinates used to generate the satellite image in SLIDER? It is difficult to get a decent view of WA like you have above using the sidebar navigation in SLIDER. Thanks!

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    1. After zooming as needed, pause the slider animation at the time of interest, then click "Download options" and select Current Image.

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  11. You all are so helpful and have been an incredible resource during this time. Thank you for your work!

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  12. The "washington burn bans" website linked in the sidebar doesn't seem to exist.

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  13. Really fantastic work on these updates; thank you so much.

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  14. Thank you for your thorough and diligent work in keeping us updated to those at WA Dept of Ecology; especially Mr. Dhammapala!

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  15. Yes, thank you for the wonderful information!

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  16. How will the Air quality be at the Olympic coast be tomorrow?

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    1. Please see the forecast at https://enviwa.ecology.wa.gov/home/text/421. Plan for Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups at least.

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  17. Hi, I’m wondering what the Bellingham area is supposed to look like tomorrow. The smoke forecast for today was totally off. I need to work but have asthma, and am wondering how safe it’ll be for me to travel since I have felt this smoke really badly.

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    1. Hi, sorry about your asthma. Yes today's clearing hasnt been as good as expected and I'm expecting Bellingham to be around USG (orange) tomorrow. However the day will probably start off as Unhealthy before improving later. So if you have no choice but to be outdoors, at least get the best possible mask (N95s are in short supply, but KN95s are supposed to be available at hardware stores and provide the next best filtration option). Also try & schedule regular indoor breaks so you dont stay in the gunk for long periods at a stretch. Stay safe!

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  18. Do your forecasts comport with WSU's AIRPACT-5? Similar or different?

    http://lar.wsu.edu/airpact/gmap/ap5/ap5smoke.html

    Thank you!

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    1. There are similarities (we use the same source of meteorological forecasts) and differences (machine learning model vs Airpact's CMAQ). More details here: https://enviwa.ecology.wa.gov/Documents/SmokeForecast.pdf

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  19. These updates are really well done. I wish you folks could run a year-round weather blog.

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  20. Ranil - thank you so much for your excellent blog posts. This in formation is so helpful and I appreciate the way you bring some humanity to this awful situation. Keep up the good work. FYI, this is Nancy Helm, former AQ staff at EPA R10.

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  21. Would it be recommended/acceptable for a healthy person (e.g. not in a sensitive group) to run outside when AQI drops to the lower "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups" range (100-125)? Or should even healthy people wait for a "Moderate" range to participate in outdoor running?

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    1. Hello. Well, the lower the better. Use the monitors to make these real time decisions, not the forecasts.

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  22. Could you please comment on the efficacy of adding humidity to indoor air to reduce particulates? There are numerous posts on social media that claim that boiling certain herbs on the stove or otherwise humidifying the air will reduce indoor smoke, driving it to settle out of the air. Is there any truth to this? I would greatly appreciate your input.

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    1. Hi Diana, a good suggestion but I cant see how aerosol science supports this. Higher humidity causes particle to grow in size. This means:
      (1) increased deposition velocity, but that alone is not sufficient to remove particles in large enough amounts.
      (2) slightly more efficient filtration of larger particles by the human respiratory system, but particles need to grow a lot before this amounts to anything meaningful.

      The moisture layer tends to help the lungs better absorb water soluble organic compounds adhered on to particle surfaces, increasing their toxicity somewhat. However aged smoke particles are already moist, so I dont know if further moisture does any damage.

      So while I couldnt claim it is counterproductive (unless you're using a smoky stove), it is not going to do you a whole lot of good.

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    2. Thank you for your thoughtful response.

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  23. Does it look like Clark County/ Vancouver area will show some improvement on Monday? We are off the charts Sunday evening.

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  24. When will we see some improvement in the Vancouver and Camas areas of SW Washington? The fog and smog are terrible today.

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  25. During these kinds of wildfire smoke events, I check your site plus AirNow.gov plus Windfinder almost hourly. The National Weather Service is also helpful. We are indeed lucky to have such sterling information at our fingertips to help planning as well as to reinforce what our eyes and noses tell us - that it's pretty yucky outside (smile). Thank you!

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  26. Hi! For Eastern Wa (Lake Roosevelt/Sherman Pass area) do you think we'll see "yellow" on our map by early Tuesday morning?

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  27. Thank you for this incredibly helpful resource - really appreciate your work, especially over the weekend!

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  28. Air quality is hazardous in Tacoma. Is there any chance of evacuations, and where would that information be posted? Would a surgical mask be better than nothing to wear around the house? We couldn’t get anything beyond a small, potentially useless air purifier. No N95s.

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    1. For information on evacuations, follow local news and local emergency management for updates (Pierce County: https://www.co.pierce.wa.us/104/Emergency-Management). Surgical and other cloth face masks generally do not provide much protection against wildfire smoke. They may help a small amount, but won’t filter out the fine particles or hazardous gasses in smoke.

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  29. I have a trip planned to Bend,OR this coming weekend (9/18), can you please comment on the weather conditions in Bend? Will it be smoky or some relief is expected by Friday?

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    1. Oregon has a smoke blog too! http://oregonsmoke.blogspot.com/

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    2. Yours is a lot more fun to read than Oregon's is!

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  30. Ranil, a zillion continued thanks from me too for the work you are doing. I so enjoy your updates - the tone, your style of writing, and the information. And thank you for explaining why Issaquah and other spots looked like they were oases in the murk.

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  31. There are different AQI websites that read mid 300's and some that read mid 500's (currently at 5:54am). Which ones are accurate? I'm in Vancouver Washington. When will we start getting relief?

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    1. WAQA (Ecology map) and AQI (this blog and EPA) are on different scales. WAQA is more protective of health so WAQA will often show worse levels than AQI. Currently AQI is Very Unhealthy in Vancouver and WAQA would likely show hazardous (WAQA is not loading for me right now). To complicate things it looks like the WAQA maxes out at 500 while AQI goes higher (though still just called hazardous). Also, keep in mind many sites show a Nowcast value instead of the last hourly reading. Without details on what you are exactly looking at it's tough to comment. Vancouver could see a little relief tomorrow night, but you are close to many fires. Thursday looks promising.

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  32. Thanks team! You're providing good info in a difficult time! Way to go.

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  33. Thank you for this info. I figured we had "saturated" the sensors over here (E. WA) when they all started going off line on Saturday afternoon. Be interesting to know how bad it really got, or maybe I don't need to know that :-)
    Keep up the good work.

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  34. I'm wondering why DOE's map is slightly different than this one? For example, the map at the top of this page shows the monitoring site nearest me (Lacey-College Street) with a reading of very unhealthy, whereas the DOE's map picking up data from the very same site shows the reading as hazardous.

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    1. DOE uses WAQA, which is more protective than AQI (used on this blog and EPA sites). WAQA uses lower PM2.5 concentration thresholds to go from one health category to the next.

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  35. Thanks for all the information. btw, is there a reason why purpleair continuously shows UW as having cleaner air than around it? Drove by it and it seemed as bad as elsewhere

    https://www.purpleair.com/map?opt=1/mAQI/a10/cC0#10.51/47.6395/-122.2347

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    1. Make sure to uncheck "indoor sensors". That should get rid of the green dots.

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  36. Thank you for all your stellar information. I live in Sequim on the ocean and it it difficult ascertaining marine air from smoke, you made it very clear! Can you clear the air as well? !

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