Smoke in the atmosphere causes hazy skies, but only minor air quality issues


MID-MICHIGAN, Mich. (WJRT) – Smoke from wildfires in the west has caused hazy skies, vibrant sunrises and sunsets, but it hasn’t had a huge impact on air quality of the region.

Jim Harwood, a senior meteorologist in the air quality division of the Michigan Department of the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, said this recent wave of smoke has resulted in high levels of particulate matter in the air, but they were not high enough to cause significant problems.

“We are seeing higher than normal figures for particles, but luckily we have not yet reached such a level that we have to issue an opinion,” he said.

Harwood said the state’s air quality division is monitoring ozone and particulate matter levels in the atmosphere. If the levels get too high, they will issue notices to the public warning the poor air quality.

Data AirNow, an air quality news source, showed most of Michigan was in a “moderate” range on its air quality index on Tuesday. This meant that there were high levels of ozone or particulate matter, but not at a level that would cause widespread problems.

“So luckily we had a mix, we had a lot higher numbers than we normally have, but it’s still in that moderate range,” Harwood said of the particle levels.

If conditions had deteriorated in the next phase, the air quality would have been “unhealthy for sensitive groups”. Harwood said he didn’t expect this to happen as the smoke will clear by Wednesday.

Another reason this wave of smoke has not made the air quality problems worse is how far away the forest fires causing this smoke are. Harwood said most of them burn in the Pacific Northwest or Canada, causing more smoke to enter the atmosphere. He said if these were to come close to Michigan, or the state itself, we would see the smoke lower in the atmosphere and more impact.

“If the fires were closer, if they were like, say, Minnesota or even the northern part of the Lower Peninsula there, and the smoke and haze were closer to the ground, it can actually trigger major ozone problems there, ”he said. .

Looking at the longer term, with wildfires continuing to burn in the west, Harwood said we will likely see more episodes of smoke in the days and weeks to come.

“We haven’t even hit August yet and August is still a hot and dry month too, so yes we expect to see it at least until August and maybe early September. “, did he declare.

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