How are Smoke issues around the Gulf Island or San Juans?

Discussion in 'General Paddling Discussions' started by designer, Aug 15, 2018.

  1. designer

    designer Paddler

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2012
    Messages:
    384
    Location:
    Bend OR USA
    So it's this time of the year when the atmosphere is trying to give us a good summer but because of forest fires, the air is full of smoke.

    I was putting together a plan for something in the next two weeks and read there was an air quality issue around Sidney. We now have smoke from Canada floating above the skies in Central Oregon.

    So - how is it up there? I don't need "pure" air, but it would be nice to see a shore line or not turn into a shetland pony after breathing the smokey air through a bug net all night.
     
  2. alexsidles

    alexsidles Paddler

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2009
    Messages:
    242
    Location:
    Seattle WA
    Air quality in Sidney and Friday Harbor right now is very similar to what you're experiencing in Bend. Canada and the US measure air quality on different scales, but here is a site that allows you to make real-time, apples-to-apples comparisons:

    https://breezometer.com/real-time-air-quality/?lat=48.442&locale=en_us&lon=-123.363

    At the time of this post, Sidney has an air quality of 47/100, while Bend is at 45/100, where higher ratios indicate better air quality.

    You have to get all the way up to the Discovery Islands and points north before you reach good quality air in the 70s and above. Even the west coast of VI is a little hazy, in the mid-60s.

    Notice the shocking 0/100 for vast parts of the Tweedsmuir! Carbon monoxide concentrations in some parts of that forest are over 100 ppm, sufficient to cause mortality even in healthy people over the course of a few hours. That's a really massive fire.

    Alex
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2018
    chodups likes this.
  3. designer

    designer Paddler

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2012
    Messages:
    384
    Location:
    Bend OR USA
    Alex, thank you for the prompt reply and URL. I've added it to my Favorites.
     
  4. alexsidles

    alexsidles Paddler

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2009
    Messages:
    242
    Location:
    Seattle WA
    On further review, I've decided Breezometer is not the one-stop shop for smoke information I'd hoped it would be. I question both the accuracy of its data and the relevance of its single air quality number.

    EDIT: Breezometer claims to be be pulling at least some of its data from the EU's Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service. CAMS, in turn, uses a network of satellites to collect data. Breezometer's data seems to track closely with what you can see on CAMS's Global Surface Forecasts app. However, satellite data has inherent limitations as compared to ground data, as Breezometer itself acknowledges. For example, I notice today that CAMS is saying Seattle has a PM2.5 level of over 500 micrograms per cubic meter, which would indicate extreme smoky haze. However, Seattle's ground station reports around 25 micograms per cubic meter, which is only light or moderate smoky haze. And sure enough, Seattle's smoke is fairly light and continues to clear. So although I now have more confidence that Breezometer is relying on empirical data, it appears the satellite-based dataset itself introduces accuracy problems.

    Second, although Breezometer does display the numeric "results" (real or simulated) for each pollutant at each location, its single air quality number appears to be some kind of combined derivative of all six pollutants. This means that although a given area might have very low levels of PM2.5 (the primary pollutant from wildfire smoke), it might still receive a very poor air quality number from Breezometer if other pollutants are high.

    My recommendation is to use Breezometer as a starting point, not an ending point, for investigating smoke levels.

    Alex
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2018
  5. designer

    designer Paddler

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2012
    Messages:
    384
    Location:
    Bend OR USA
    Understood - thank you for the update.